Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Climbing the Stairs

Venkatraman, Padma. 2008. CLIMBING THE STAIRS. New York: Putman. ISBN 0399247467 [Suggested Grade Levels 7-12]

Set in India during the early years of World War II, CLIMBING THE STAIRS is narrated by a charming girl, 15, Vidya, who dreams of going to college at a time when girls are seen as future wives and mothers. When tragedy strikes and the family is forced to move to her paternal grandfather’s home, Vidya’s future becomes as uncertain as India’s political climate. The independence movement hopes to create an India free from British rule and oppression. But there is a call from the British to rise up and join their ranks on the field fighting the Axis powers. Yet many Indians believe in nonviolence no matter the situation.

Vidya makes for a compelling narrator. With everything going wrong in her life—her father’s illness, her brother being in the army, and her current living circumstances—living with strict rules about male and female roles: the men live upstairs, the women live downstairs—Vidya could have given up, but instead she finds strength and courage to hold onto hope. One of her greatest resources is her grandfather's library, a place that should be off limits since its upstairs.

Discuss how the heroines Vidya encounters between the covers in the books she reads inspire and encourage her in her own life. Research the Indian Independence/Freedom movement. Discuss the moral and ethical dilemmas of the war as presented in the novel.

Other novels set in India:
Krishnaswami, Uma. NAMING MAYA. ISBN 0374354855
Perkins, Mitali. MONSOON SUMMER. ISBN 0440238404
Perkins, Mitali. SECRET KEEPER. ISBN 0385733402
Sheth, Kashmira. KEEPING CORNER. ISBN 0786838590
Staples, Suzanne Fisher. SHIVA’S FIRE. ISBN 0064409797

By Becky Laney

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