Thursday, December 2, 2010

Book Review of Reena’s Bollywood Dream by Jewel Kats

Reena’s Bollywood Dream
By: Jewel Kats
illustrated by Richa Kinra
Published by: Loving Healing Press   Date: 2010
ISBN: 978-1-61599-014-6 (paperback); 978-1-61599-059-7 (hard cover)
Price: $15.95 (paperback); $29.95 (hardcover)
Ages: 8-12                                  
Rating:  5 stars
Reviewed by: Nancy Messmore

Synopsis: Reena dreams of being a Bollywood star but it seems no one in her family—not Mommy, Daddy, nor Nani—thinks it’s an appropriate dream for an eight year old.  When Uncle Jessi, Reena’s pen pal, joins the family in America, he encourages dreams of Bollywood.  In fact, Uncle Jessi offers to make a video of Reena dancing and acting like the Bollywood actresses from India.  However, playing the part begins to feel wrong and Reena runs away in tears.  She recognizes that Uncle Jessi was trying to get her to do things that are wrong, so she takes the videotape to her parents.  Although they are shocked by what they see on the screen, they praise Reena for her courage in doing the right thing.  In the end, Reena trades in her Bollywood dream for the real-life drama club at school.

Overall thoughts: Sexual abuse is a difficult topic to discuss with children and even harder to write about.  Remarkably, Jewel Kats has written about abuse in a sensitive yet thorough manner.  In fact, the story could happen in any family or in any neighborhood.  But by telling the story of Reena’s Bollywood dream, the author not only offers an opportunity for families to discuss abuse but also a chance to glimpse another culture.  A glossary of terms on the dedication page is a wonderful introduction to this multicultural book.  Richa Kinra’s illustrations enhance the story, especially with facial expressions that mirror the emotions articulated in the text.  The rich colors reflect the culture of this family that has relocated from India to America.

During my tenure in an elementary school library, the guidance counselor often requested books on a variety of topics.  I never had well-written or visually engaging books on sexual abuse.  This title would fit the bill perfectly.  Aside from guidance counselors, families looking for a way to discuss recognizing inappropriate physical contact and how to react to it will want to read this book together.

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