From the Publisher
"This book is a real page-turner...you'll stay up late to finish it."
"Young readers can only hope for more from this master storyteller."
Publishers Weekly, starred review
"The action is exciting, and the Indian setting makes this story new and different."
"Divakaruni [is] a gifted storyteller....Though [she] beguiles us with the sights and sounds of an exotic place, what she really does is make us feel at home."
Los Angeles Times
A 12-year-old living in India offers a beggar his ration of tea and pooris and finds himself on a mission to return a sacred conch shell to a Himalayan community of Magic Healers. In a starred review, PW called this "an exotic novel in which fantasy threads intertwine with spiritual teachings. Young readers can only hope for more from this master storyteller." Ages 8-12. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From a writer known for her poetry (Leaving Yuba City), and adult literary fiction (Sister of My Heart), comes this middle grade novel with an appealing child protagonist venturing out upon an improbable quest. Elements of young Anand's journey are linked to ancient Hindu mythologies and sacred geography. Readers who know this context will recognize many archetypes and symbols. The visitor who creates a feast out of minimal offerings of food, the conch itself, the rejection of a heaven-like place in favor of loyalty-each of these echoes themes from the epic poem-story, the "Mahabharata." Woven into the fabric of this fantasy tale are linked past and present in the muddle of then and now that is quintessential India. The strand of the father, missing since he left to take a job in the Gulf, connects this India to the world in a way that is both real and touching. In the same vein, Divakaruni renders contemporary urban Kolkata, with its street kids and tea stalls, in a manner that is both textured and affectionate. Despite the jacket text that extols the exotic flavor of this story, the really compelling places are those scenes that the reader can experience from very close to Anand's perspective, feeling both his unnamed fears and his longings left unfulfilled by circumstance. It is likely, therefore, that the story premise will feel familiar to a broad audience of readers, being the fairly classic tale of an unwilling and sometimes clueless hero growing into the significance of his destiny. Not all the obstacles on the journey are entirely convincing. The ape-creatures' pidgeon-like speech was a definite reading hiccup. The conflict of snake and mongoose felt a littleobvious. Admittedly, the latter might be a non-issue for young readers. It could well be more annoying to grownups jaded by the endless rehashings of Kipling that the market has favored us with over the years. On the whole, it is refreshing to see this particular mingling of old and new, real and magical, in the story container of a children's book. There are places in which the prose just sings, and in all, The Conch Bearer is worth revisiting. 2003, Roaring Brook Press, Ages 9 up.
Anand is a twelve-year-old boy living in Kolkata (Calcutta) with his mother and ill sister. Because his father is missing, Anand must work to help take care of his family. A strange old man finds Anand and tells him about the Silver Valley and its inhabitants-the Brotherhood of Healers and the magical conch that helps them. He explains that the conch has been stolen and used for evil purposes and that it must be returned to its rightful place. Anand has been chosen as the Conch Bearer, and he goes with the old man to return the conch. Along the way, they are joined by a Nisha, a street urchin. The plot of this novel has many of the standard fantasy elements: the young boy chosen for an important role as seen in The Giver; a missing father as in A Wrinkle in Time; meeting with a girl to embark on a quest through peril and magic as in The Silver Chair, and battling an evil force that can disguise itself such as seen in the Harry Potter series and other books. The unique setting is what sets this novel apart from other fantasy stories, and the quality of the writing is above average. Even that, however, might not be enough to hold some readers who have traveled this fantasy road before. VOYA CODES: 3Q 2P M J (Readable without serious defects; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2003, Roaring Brook, 272p., and PLB Ages 11 to 15.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-Anand's compassionate gesture of sharing his tea with an old man in a Calcutta market leads to radical changes in the 12-year-old's life. The stranger is a member of the Brotherhood of Healers and invites the boy to join him on a dangerous journey to return a magical conch shell to its proper home in the far-off Himalayas. Along with Nisha, a sweeper-girl who insists on joining them, Anand and Abhaydatta travel to the mountains pursued by the evil Surabhanu, a power-hungry ex-member of the brotherhood. Anand struggles in his own mind, doubting Abhaydatta's motives and the existence of magic, jealous of Nisha's comfortable relationship with the old man, and occasionally succumbing to Surabhanu's tempting illusions. When he finally reaches the Silver Valley, more challenges await him before he can enter. In the end, he faces the most difficult choice of all-to stay in the world of magic he had always dreamed of or return to his family. This quest adventure has an exotic flavor: the journey from a crowded Indian city through rural villages and the high mountains, a magical background from traditional Indian tales, and deliciously detailed description of Indian foods. Honesty, loyalty, and compassion are the virtues demanded by the Healers; Anand's actions show that he has all three. Readers can sympathize with his struggles and long for his success. This traditional story in fresh new clothing should appeal to middle graders.-Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Pakoras instead of stew. A stock quest fantasy stars Anand, a 12-year-old who has worked at a Kolkata (Calcutta) tea stall since his father disappeared two years ago. A moment of kindness to a hungry old man is rewarded when-surprise-the oldster is revealed as Abhaydatta, a powerful mage requesting Anand's help on a dangerous mission. Abhaydatta's magical conch is sought by the wicked wizard Surabhanu, and Anand must take the conch safely to the Silver Valley. Joined by the savvy street-sweeping girl Nisha, the adventurers begin their journey across a modern yet fantastical India. To defeat Surabhanu, they must vanquish the usual foes: megalomaniac villains, frightening monsters, and the weaknesses of their own hearts. A rather bland tale, but the unusual setting might be intriguing spice for lovers of the genre. (Fiction. 10-13)