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Boys without Names Hardcover – January 19, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

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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From Booklist

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

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 670L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Balzer + Bray (January 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061857602
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061857607
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,129,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Joan Zabelka on August 13, 2011
Format: Paperback
Spoiler alert: Other reviewers gave good plot information - this is more of a personal experience.

I sat down with a small (relatively speaking) bowl of popcorn - no butter, a 1/2 glass of rootbeer and this book, "Boys without Names." I felt like I was at the movies - the action never let up. At one point, I was scared for the characters, tired from the non-stop narrative, and hungry like the boys, but I could not put the book down. I admit to scrounging for something else to nibble on as the plot thickened. I found some stale jelly beans on my desk (it's the end of August as I write this) and I never left my spot for the rest of the evening.

There was something magical about being wrapped up in the story and I didn't want to break the tension that seemed so fragile yet so gripping. Maybe the magic came in letting myself get caught up in the story. This story is about stories so I felt I owed it something - my time and my loyalty.

We all have our stories to tell. We all have stories to hide. And we have stories skewed by time and emotions. This story, "Boys without Names," reinforces the importance stories have in our lives. Whether they are fairy tales, classics or our own stories - we find common themes, love stories, and hero quests just plopped into different settings with a different supporting casts.

Paying attention to this story was a choice, just as paying attention to our own story is a choice. As a former elementary school librarian, I held stories like this ready for students to check out. Now I am a spiritual companion and I hold clients' "living stories" as they bring them to me. This book reminded me how important telling a story can be and how important it is to have someone listen to it - without interrupting.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on June 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In BOYS WITHOUT NAMES, author Kashmira Sheth takes readers into the world of child labor and exposes the unbearable conditions and incredible horrors suffered by millions of children around the world.

Economic conditions drive Gopal and his family from their tiny village into life in the city of Mumbai. Their trip from village to city is complicated by lack of money and difficulty with the language. Gopal, his mother, and his twin brother and sister are forced to live for several days on the street when Gopal's father goes in search of the uncle who was supposed to meet them at the train station. Not able to read directions and street signs, Gopal's father is lost, leaving the remaining family to struggle on without him.

When they finally find him, Uncle Jama is able to provide food and shelter for them while he begins the search for Gopal's missing father. Gopal attempts to look for ways to earn money and help out. One day he meets a boy who promises work if Gopal will follow him immediately. Gopal is drugged and taken to a sweatshop, where he and five other boys are forced to make beaded picture frames by a cruel boss Gopal names Scar.

The boys work long hours, are given very little food, and are able to bathe only once a week. Their days and nights are spent breathing toxic glue fumes in a poorly lit, stuffy attic. At first they work quietly, each dreaming of returning to families they miss, but as the weeks and months pass, Gopal begins to tell the group stories to pass the time and soon the others add stories of their own. All the while, Gopal plots his escape. The idea of leaving becomes more complicated as the six boys become like a family. How can all of them manage to gain their freedom from under Scar's watchful eyes and locked doors?
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Odyssey6 on October 7, 2011
Format: Paperback
Stories about happy elves, magical palaces, and pink ponies are getting kind of boring, right? Why not try something different? Boys Without Names by Kashmira Seth, is sad and heart touching because of the tragic and depressing events that the characters must go through. The part that made my heart drop is when the main character, Gopal, must work as a slave in a factory with 4 other boys. Gopal is a determined 11 year old boy who never imagined a life like this. As you read, you will learn the true meaning of friendship and collaboration. This book is something different and truly engaging. Can Gopal free himself and the others? Find out in Boys Without Names.
Arianna age 11
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Edith A. Campbell on February 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Gopal's family lives in rural India where they are tied to the land. One bad crop, one illness, just one accident will secure those ties and deepen their debt. The ties are so tight, that Gopal's father decides to move the family to Mumbai where they can be helped by relatives and Baba (dad) can find work. The family faces several tenuous situations in their travel to find Gopal's Uncle Jama and in most of these situations, we're able to see the goodness of people in India. Given the terror that is about to strike Gopal, it's important that the author remind us that there are people who choose to do good or to do bad in India as there are everywhere.

Gopal is a very smart young but in his cleverness, he gets snatched up and taken to be a child laborer, spending his days gluing beads to photo frames all day long. Gopal soon realizes that he's had something most of the boys he's working with have not: he's known his family and he is confident in who he is. In his upbringing, many lessons were taught through strorytelling and this helps him develop many critical thinking skills that keep him mentally one step ahead in most situations.

Boys without names is a story with a very authenticl feel to it and it gives us insights into the very real work of child slavery. It is not a painful read, but suspense builds as Sheth skillfully uses Gopal's voice to explore possibilities and plan for the future, something the boys had previously refused to do. Sheth conveys how adults can manipulate and control children and successfully describes the horrendous conditions the children live in. Nonetheless, the story remains hopeful as through Gopal's eyes, we begin to see how things work, how relationships form and how things might change.
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