From School Library Journal
Grade 4–7—Eager to find work after his hungry family arrives in Mumbai, 11-year-old Gopal ends up locked in a one-room "factory" making beaded frames with five other boys so beaten down they don't even talk to one another. Gopal's story is not uncommon: a bumper crop year drove prices down, money was borrowed to pay for medicine, the farm was lost but the debt remained, and the family was forced to flee to the city to find work. Gopal stores up his memories of his rural Indian village, with its pond, fruit trees, and bird songs, contrasting them with the noisy stink of their new home at the end of a sewage-laden lane in an overcrowded shantytown. Readers quickly come to care for this clever, perceptive boy who tries hard to do the right thing. Suspense mounts as it becomes clear that escape from the sweatshop will not be easy: the other boys need to be convinced. Storytelling is the key to winning them over, and Sheth includes bits of tales both familiar and new. The author includes more about child labor at the end of this well-told survival story with a social conscience.—Kathleen Isaacs, Children's Literature Specialist, Pasadena, MD
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Set in contemporary Mumbai, this novel from the author of Keeping Corner (2007) tells a harrowing story of child slavery. Indebted to ruthless moneylenders, 11-year-old Gopal’s family flees to Mumbai, where they hope to find work. On the way, Gopal’s father goes missing, and Gopal guides his mother and siblings to an uncle’s house, where they worry and wait for Baba to find them. Eager to help his family earn money, Gopal follows a local boy to what he thinks will be a day’s work at a factory. Instead, he is pulled into a sweatshop—a single room where five boys are held against their will and forced to produce decorative items with toxic materials. As Gopal dreams of escape, he builds tenuous friendships with his fellow workers. Those wary bonds form a dramatic counterpoint to the children’s daily misery, described in moving, palpable detail, and skillfully steer the story away from docu-novel territory to its hopeful conclusion. Pair this eye-opening title with Susan Kuklin’s Iqbal Masih and the Crusaders against Child Slavery (1998). Grades 4-7. --Gillian Engberg