From School Library Journal
Gr 5-7–With his talent for math, 12-year-old Akash dreams of escaping his dreary existence by winning a school scholarship. He and his widowed father, Bapu, eke out a precarious existence with their extended family in rural Rajasthan, a drought-plagued region of India. After Bapu's death, Akash is sent to a quarry to work off his family's insurmountable debt. He runs away and ends up living in the New Dehli train station. He forages through trash heaps to find food, joins a group of homeless children, and moves from one perilous situation to the next. In one of the most harrowing episodes, he and a friend sell drugs for a dangerous drug lord. Akash's story is involving, yet the fast-paced plot outpaces character development, and the hopeful ending arrives abruptly. In an author's note, Schröder briefly describes the plight of street children in India; she also adds interest with references to Vedic math and Hindu gods. Despite its good intentions, Akash's story remains too thinly sketched to be memorable.–Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
In Rajasthan, India, 12-year-old Akash loves math, and he dreams of earning a scholarship to further his studies. After his father’s abrupt death, though, his grandmother sends him to work in a quarry to pay off the family’s deep debt. Quickly realizing that loan-shark interest rates will never allow his family to reduce what they owe, Akash escapes by sneaking onto a New Delhi-bound train. In the bewildering big city, he joins a group of street kids who feed themselves from garbage scraps and earn coins by collecting plastic bottles. Schröder, a German-born educator who now lives in India, frankly exposes the harsh realities of the street children’s world: many sniff corrective fluid for a cheap, brain-melting high, and even Akash tries selling drugs to make the quick money he needs to continue his education. Eventually, though, Akash begins to find real opportunities and support. With skillfully integrated cultural details (further explained in an appended glossary and author’s note) and a fully realized child’s story, Schröder presents a view, sobering and inspiring, of remarkably resilient young people surviving poverty without losing themselves. Grades 4-7. --Gillian Engberg