Reviews for The Bridge Home

by Padma Venkatraman

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Venkatraman's middle-grade debut tackles sisterhood, chosen families, and loss.Eleven-year-old Viji and her sister, Rukku, flee their abusive father after he breaks Amma's arm and kicks Rukku. They find themselves, overwhelmed, in the big city of Chennai, where they are temporarily employed by kind Teashop Aunty, who offers them bananas and vadais, and fall in love with a puppy, Kutti, who becomes their constant companion. The sisters meet Muthu and Arul, two boys who live under an abandoned bridge, and join them; Viji tells Rukku elaborate stories to reassure herself and her sister that they will be OK. Soon, Viji finds herself telling the young boys her stories as well; in return, the boys show the girls how to earn money on the streets: by scavenging for resalable trash in a very large garbage dump Muthu calls "the Himalayas of rubbish." When tragedy strikes, it is this new family who helps Viji come to terms. Craftwise, the book is thoughtful: Venkatraman employs the second person throughout as Viji writes to Rukku, and readers will ultimately understand that Viji is processing her grief by writing their story. Viji's narration is vivid and sensory; moonlight "slip[s] past the rusty iron bars on our window"; "the taste of half an orangelast[s] and last[s]." The novel also touches on social justice issues such as caste, child labor, and poverty elegantly, without sacrificing narrative.A blisteringly beautiful book. (Fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

In India, 11-year-old Viji and her 12-year-old sister, Rukku, run away to Chennai after their violent father strikes out at them. Unprepared for living on the streets, they befriend two homeless boys: Arul, who lost his family in a tsunami, and Muthu, who escaped from a so-called school where he was confined and forced to work. Together they pick through garbage dumps for glass and metal scraps to sell, sleep on an abandoned bridge, and form their own family. Rukku's intellectual disability has made her dependent on Viji, who gradually learns that her sister is more capable than she had thought. When Rukku and Muthu fall ill, Viji makes tough decisions in hopes of saving their lives and later must cope with her grief before she can move on. The four children and their tight-knit relationship are portrayed with conviction and finesse. Written in the form of a letter from Viji to her sister, the affecting narrative transports readers to a faraway setting that becomes vivid and real. Although the young characters face unusually difficult challenges, they nevertheless find the courage they need to move forward. The author of A Time to Dance (2014), Venkatraman offers an absorbing novel of love, loss, and resilience.--Carolyn Phelan Copyright 2019 Booklist

School Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Gr 4-6-In her stellar middle grade debut, Venkatraman (A Time to Dance) brings compassionate attention to the plight of India's homeless children. Fleeing their father's physical abuse, sisters Viji and Rukku end up on the harsh streets of the city of Chennai. Eleven-year-old Viji is younger by one year, but Rukku's unspecified developmental delays put Viji in charge of their survival. Seeking shelter on a crumbling bridge, Viji finds two homeless boys, Muthi and Arul, who are willing to share what little they have. The four children become a fiercely devoted family, armed with nothing more than resourcefulness and Viji's faith that their fortunes will improve one day. Despite their determination, hunger and sickness eventually take their toll on the children: Viji's hopefulness falters when one of her steadfast promises to Rukku cannot be kept. The sisters' bond provides both the narrative's heart and its structure. Viji writes the novel as if talking to Rukku, words that comfort her just as the fairy tales Viji told every night on the bridge lifted their spirits. Characters grow along with their newfound autonomy; Rukku demonstrates skills overprotective Viji never recognized. Muthi and Arul begin to believe they have a future. Venkatraman's depiction of the streets of Chennai is a sensory experience. Her elegant prose tells a heartfelt, wholly captivating story while encouraging readers to consider larger issues including religion, poverty, and the caste system. VERDICT An unforgettable tale of families lost, found, and moving ahead without leaving those they love behind.-Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Horn Book
(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

To escape their abusive father, eleven-year-old narrator Viji and her intellectually disabled sister Rukku run away to Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu, India, where they befriend two homeless boys. Written in short chapters directly addressed to Rukku in which traumatic events are balanced with personal reflection, this bittersweet story is about breaking the cycle of abuse, reaching for your dreams, and finding home in the most unlikely places. (c) Copyright 2019. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Gr 5–8—"Write her a letter" counsels a kind woman, as she helps Viji work through heartache after scraping out a living and sleeping in a makeshift hovel on a bridge near an large Indian city. Viji narrates her story speaking directly to Rukku, her gentle, artistic, and developmentally delayed older sister. For their safety, 11-year-old Viji and Rukku flee their abusive home, though it means perilous days scrounging for recyclables in the "Himalayas of rubbish" with two boys, Arul and Muthi, about their own age. The foursome strengthen each other, helped occasionally by generous street vendors and Teashop Aunty, while menaced by trash-picking gangs and the relentless weather. The choice to address the reader as "you" makes a challenging dynamic, as what happens to Rukku thus happens to the audience. The author's lilting and captivating narration employs almost musical tones for younger boy Muthu and others. VERDICT Venkatraman brings love, support, and humor to a story undergirded by tough issues. Curricular connections abound, including science, global studies, and ecology. A smart addition to any middle school library.—Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley Sch., Fort Worth, TX