- Age Range: 8 - 12 years
- Grade Level: 3 - 7
- Lexile Measure: 630L (What's this?)
- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Hyperion Book CH (July 26, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1423131630
- ISBN-13: 978-1423131632
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,062,150 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Vanished Hardcover – July 26, 2011
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About the Author
Sheela Chari(www.sheelachari.com) was born in Bangalore, India, and has lived in Iowa, Washington State, California, Massachusetts, and New York. She holds an MFA degree in Creative Writing from New York University. This is her first novel.
Top customer reviews
Neela sees hints of the veena around her. When her family makes a trip to India, Neela is so close to getting it back, although others are after it too. But then there's the curse around it. Even if she does get it back, what if it still ends up at the Chennai Music Palace? This is a wonderful middle grade mystery. Not only is the story amazing, but I loved the multicultural and international flair. Also, I learned about an instrument I never heard of before.
In Vanished, the author Sheela Chari does just what her mom encourages Neela to do with her new American life: Take the best that both cultures have to offer. Be both Indian and American.
I love that about this story. Yes, Neela and her family are a little different. Their names are different, some of the foods they eat are different, and visiting grandma doesn't mean a long car trip, but an overseas plane trip to India. The music she loves is played on a veena, an old-fashioned Indian instrument. But it is because kids will also relate to this family that they will learn to appreciate some of the differences, or perhaps they won't even seem any different than the fact that one sibling likes pepperoni pizza and the other likes cheese.
Vanished isn't a preachy tale meant to raise awareness, or a novel with a multi-cultural agenda built in, but because the main character is different than your standard middle-class American child, it's an opportunity to absorb some culture. That's one reason I love to read multi-cultural literature myself, and I think that the same stands for this middle-grade novel.
NOTE TO PARENTS: There's nothing objectionable in this book for older middle grade readers. There is one mild swear word spoken by an adult, and narrator Neela even comments how she felt grown up to be trusted with such language, indicating that she knows it's not an 11-year-old word. That made this book feel even more authentic to me, because in fact they do hear swear words quite frequently. This book felt very plot-heavy. It held my interest as an adult. Some of the things involved in their search for the veena were a bit of a stretch from reality, but that makes it a fun adventure! I would recommend Vanished to a more mature reader (10 and up) who enjoys this type of read.
I was a little disappointed that the cover seems to white-washed, which is pretty common in books featuring people of color. Why not give lovely Neela a bit of a tan? At best, she looks like a light-skinned Hispanic. Regardless, it's nice to see novels that truly represent the changing face of American culture, such as this one.
Eleven-year-old Neela, who lives near Boston and dreams of becoming a professional musician one day, loves playing the beautiful old veena (a traditional Indian instrument) that her grandmother has sent her from India. But there's a story behind that veena that the adults in her life have hidden from her, and when it's stolen from Neela, she discovers rumors of a curse laid upon the instrument. As she works to find her stolen veena, she makes new friendships, struggles with her changing relationship with her mother, and discovers the strength and confidence that had been hidden inside herself all along.
The story of VANISHED is fabulous and fun, but what I really loved most were all the little details of Neela's family life. All of her family members were real and believable, from four-year-old Sree to their parents and grandmother, and I recognized so many little details of family dynamics from when I was eleven - Neela's shifting relationship with her much-younger brother, her struggles to define herself against her mother and find a new balance in their relationship...one of my favorite bits was this little moment between the two of them:
"Mrs. Krishnan reached over to stroke the ends of Neela's hair. Neela had always loved this since she was small, but lately it had begun to annoy her, too, because it felt like her mother was secretly trying to arrange her hair at the same time."
It's such a perfect encapsulation of the shifting mother-daughter relationship near the teenage years, where even the most loving relationships can run into so much conflict and strain without anyone being a "bad guy". And that's true of the adventure in this book, too, which I admired so much - it's exciting, there's danger, there's deception and real menace - but it's all believably done by real people who think they're in the right.
Despite the fact that this isn't a fantasy novel, VANISHED felt truly magical to me, and it also had the classic tone of a children's novel that could last a long, long time. I absolutely loved it.