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Full Text Reviews:
School Library Journal - 05/01/2017 Gr 4–6—After Ram loses his bag of winnings from playing a stick-and-ball game called gilli, he stumbles upon an art garden in the middle of the jungle, created by a mysterious man named Nek. Nek introduces him to stories from the Ramayana, which enthrall, educate, and inspire the young homeless boy. When Nek's health takes a turn for the worse, threatening his livelihood and his ability to curate his sculpture garden, Ram enlists the aid of his well-off friend's father to save Nek's statues. Ram and Nek's relationship deepens as Ram becomes more engrossed in the artwork and the stories. The selected tales from the Ramayana are skillfully woven throughout the novel. Although the class lines between Ram and his wealthy friend's father seem a bit too blurred to be completely believable and the happy-ever-after ending is not the most likely one for a homeless child in India, the generosity and concern shown to Ram are uplifting. The difficulties of street life and the experiences of the working poor are apparent. Despite Ram's hard life, the examples of kindness displayed throughout and the story's ultimate triumph make this a hopeful tale that will be enjoyed by readers of a wide variety of ages. An author's note explains Bradbury's personal connection with India and the actual Nek Chand's Rock Garden. Hindi words are italicized. VERDICT Recommended for those seeking modern-day stories in India that don't shy away from the harsh realities of homeless youth.—Jennifer Schultz, Fauquier County Public Library, Warrenton, VA - Copyright 2017 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Booklist - 05/15/2017 Ram survives as a street urchin on the bustling streets of Chandigarh, India, by betting on his uncanny talent in gilli, a stick-hitting game. When a gang of boys, angry at losing, demand Ram’s earnings, he flees—and in the process, loses the satchel containing his entire savings. The bag is found by a mysterious man in the jungle, who lives in an abandoned village alongside exquisite statues of his own design. When Ram confronts the man, the man offers to employ the young boy as an apprentice artist. This relationship between Ram and Nek, the old man, is the heart of the story. As Nek instructs Ram on how to build statues, he tells stories—first the Ramayana, the ancient Indian epic, and later on, Nek’s own tragic tale about leaving his childhood home. In turn, Ram relates his life on the streets, and then one day he remembers his sister promising to give him a better life, before disappearing forever. Bradbury crafts a multidimensional tale that depicts hope and friendship forged by the power of stories. - Copyright 2017 Booklist.