Book review : August 2016
A book review by NIVEDITA MUKERJEE
Title: Save Me a Seat
Authors : Sara Weeks and Gita Varadarajan
Published by: Scholastic Press, May 2016
What starts with a lunch room scenario, becomes soon a story of two young children, two families, two countries… while sharing perspectives on food, culture, rituals and unraveling an understanding … of relationships. Of parenting styles. Of overcoming obstacles. Of assumptions.
I totally enjoyed the vocabulary that ranged from ‘to throw chunks’, to ‘kan drishti’ and food items as diverse as apple crisps and cumin flavored nan khatais. It’s a story told in first person by two 5th graders with nothing but the SCHOOL in common. Then there is Dillon. The story is set in the all-familiar school routine, in the class room, in the resource room and the lunch room. Amidst all this is the intrigue of dealing with Dillon Samreen. This is about one child who is ‘FOB’, another who has ‘APD’ and a third who is ‘ABCD’. The narrative gathers a certain pace, such that you want to read through to the end at one go. There’s enough momentum built up to make you want to continue reading the glossaries and recipes well after the story ends.
As the school week unfolds, so does the story over 49 short chapters and 216 pages. Class topper rah – VEE (not RAH – vee) has moved to America with his family from Bangalore, India. He studied in an English medium school, but no one can understand his accent. He is asked to go to resource room by the class teacher Ms. Beam. He is shrimpy, brings home lunch and is vegetarian. Joe has lived in the same town but his best friends are not with him in Grade 5. He can understand all that’s going on in the class room but finds it all very noisy and is very shy. Joe is also asked to go to resource room by class teacher Ms. Beam. He likes to talk to Ms. Frost there. He is very big, is always hungry and can eat a lot. Both Ravi and Joe don’t think they have anything in common and neither of them have anyone to eat lunch with.
It has the emotions and plot that can very well lend itself to deep, reflective discussions. While the main protagonists are three 5th graders but it is equally enjoyable for children of a couple of grades lower or higher.
“These candies have four layers. Most people assume there are only three, but assumptions are often wrong. There is more to them than meets the eye”. This can be easily said about ‘Save Me a Seat’. Sarah and Gita, both the authors have portrayed their protagonists with humour and authenticity and given us a refreshingly good novel to read. This could well be the beginning of a genre!