Congratulations to Cathy Ogren who won Lulu and Rocky in Indianapolis from last week's blog.
It is my honor to present Vijaya Bodach's new picture book, LITTLE THIEF! CHOTA CHOR! (Reycraft, 2020) Vijaya is an active member of SCBWI-Carolinas and a great supporter of all things literary. Last year I reviewed her YA book, BOUND.
True to "in media res," the book opens with Anjali startled awake by a strange noise. She decides to investigate.
She lifts the mosquito net and tries in vain to wake her mother and warn her. The floor is cooler than usual--the door must have been opened! Someone has entered their home! Despite her fears, Anjali determines she will find the thief.
Details of her home alert the reader to its distinctive nature: "Scrambling into the kitchen she saw that jars of pickles, chutneys, and jams stood silently on the shelves. Burlap sacks containing flour, lentils, and rice were tied closed."
When Anjali checks the front room, she is dismayed to find that her favorite sparkly skirt, some coins, and her mother's treasured silver comb are gone.
Anjali screams that a thief has invaded their home and quickly gathers the help of her mother, the neighbors, and the night watchman.
While her neighbors scour the street, Anjali looks for clues inside her home. She discovers that her smooth, pretty river rocks are missing and mistakenly thinks that the thief is a little girl who would treasure rocks like she does.
Convinced that the thief is a frightened little girl, Anjali runs to her favorite hideout--the peepal tree. There she finds her sparkly skirt and is peppered by a few stones. When she looks up, she discovers the culprit!
Quick-witted, Anjali uses a banana to lure the monkey down.
With the mystery solved and her treasures returned, Anjali slips "into sweet dreams of her Chota Chor and their many adventures to come."
Nayantara Surendranath's vibrant illustrations magnify Vijaya's text. I loved how explosive they are and show Anjali's emotions as well as the events and the setting. Did you catch the bananas on Anjali's pajamas? Great artistic touch.
Coincidentally, while I was preparing this review I was in the middle of Daniel David Wallace's Plot Summit. I listened to Joseph Nassise describe how to use the character's emotional journey to connect to the reader. Although Nassise used novels as examples, LITTLE THIEF! CHOTA CHOR! fit his points too: A little girl has a problem that she reacts to emotionally, she tries and fails to resolve that problem, but ultimately finds the final piece to the puzzle and solves the mystery.
Make sure you read Vijaya's backstory behind writing this terrific multi-cultural picture book!