Vanishedby Sheela Chari
When this special family heirloom vanishes from a local church, strange clues surface: a tea kettle ornamented with a
Eleven-year-old Neela dreams of being a famous musician, performing for admiring crowds on her traditional Indian stringed instrument. Her particular instrument was a gift from her grandmother-intricately carved with a mysterious-looking dragon.
When this special family heirloom vanishes from a local church, strange clues surface: a tea kettle ornamented with a familiar pointy-faced dragon, a threatening note, a connection to a famous dead musician, and even a legendary curse. The clues point all the way to India, where it seems that Neela's instrument has a long history of vanishing and reappearing. Even if Neela does track it down, will she be able to stop it from disappearing again?
Sheela Chari's debut novel is a finely tuned story of coincidence and fate, trust and deceit, music and mystery.
Despite her ongoing issues with stage fright, eleven-year-old Neela is thrilled when her grandmother gifts her with a veena, the Indian instrument Neela plays, from her own collection at her home in India. When the veena mysteriously disappears, Neela discovers that her beloved new instrument is actually a priceless original from a famous craftsman, and that it is cursed: after bringing its owner bad luck, it disappears and eventually shows up back in the music store in India from which it originated. As Neela tries to find her missing instrument, she stumbles onto a mysterious web of connections involving friends, family, and even celebrities. Chari smoothly integrates Neela's experiences as an Indian-American into her adventures without giving them undue weight within the lightly earnest mystery, allowing the story to be culturally specific without being didactic or tokenistic. The nuances of peer relationships are explored with gentle thoroughness, and readers will find much that is familiar and thought-provoking as Neela's investigation tugs at ties to her best friend, her school nemesis, and the class weird girl. Though the pacing is a little slow at times, the scope and details of the mystery are laser-targeted at the appropriate age level. Neela is an endearingly awkward, heart-on-her-sleeve heroine who will readily elicit reader investment, and the supernatural mystery elegantly intertwines clues with cultural, musical, and historical details. Musically inclined readers may also be fascinated to learn the history and qualities of an instrument new to them, and an author's note offers resources for further investigation. CG—BCCB
Vanished. Eleven-year-old Neela is encouraged by her parents to embrace being both American and Indian. The latter is made easy because Neela loves to play the veena, a traditional Indian instrument. When her grandmother sends her a beautiful antique veena from India, Neela is delighted at its sound and finds it easy to imagine herself onstage as an international veena performer. But then her grandmother's veena disappears from a local church during a rainstorm, and Neela begins to wonder if the veena's rumored curse might actually be true. Featuring Indian foods, clothing, and customs, this debut novel also has a spunky heroine. Neela is smart and engaging, and her struggles with her conscience over small deceptions during her pursuit of the veena are understandable, if a little overplayed. Multidimensional characters of several generations lend credence to the story, and the foreign flavor is a plus. Though it can go on in places, this offers themes of family and honesty in a refreshing light mystery.—Booklist
Chari's first novel starts off slowly, but readers will soon be invested in 11-year-old Neela Krishnan's desperate search for her missing veena, a four-foot-tall Indian stringed instrument that dates to the 11th century. Neela's grandmother, who lives in India, sends her a veena that may be a rare "Guru original," carved with a lucky dragon symbol. When a mysterious man lures Neela into a church and the veena disappears, her superstitious mother believes the instrument was not stolen but cursed, vanishing in an attempt to return to its rightful owner. Nevertheless, Neela is wracked with guilt and passionate about recovering the instrument that both inspires her and diminishes her intense stage fright. She collects some cluesa dragon tea kettle, a fellow student's unusual behavior, a menacing note, a connection to a late musicianthat lead her all the way from Boston to India to find the truth. Indian history and culture (musical and otherwise), well-observed family and friendship dynamics, and elements of fate, luck, and tradition bring depth this quiet but enthralling mystery.—PW
When Neela's grandmother sends her a veena from India, she neglects to mention that the instrument is cursed.
Neela Krishnan tries to follow her parents' advice to take the best of both her cultures: Indian and American. Still, she sometimes feels she is singled out in school because of her heritage. So Neela, a budding musician, is nervous but pleased when she can share her treasured veena with her classmates—until it goes missing. Following clues in hopes of finding it, Neela travels to India to unravel the history of the veena. Well-paced and with moments of family humor—Mrs. Krishnan performs anaartito drive away back luck ("That's so unscientific," according to Mr. Krishnan)—the novel offers a strong cast of characters and richly-described settings; both the legend and the contemporary mystery come alive for readers. This is a study of musicians and the passion that drives them, including, for some, an obsessive desire to own a special instrument. Neela grows as she journeys to find the veena, emerging stronger than before: closer to her family, with new friendships forged and, most gratifying, showing signs of becoming a serious musician. For readers whose interest in veenas is piqued, there is an author's note with more information.
Chari, in her debut novel, strikes the right note with this engaging, intricate story that spans generations and two countries.(Mystery. 10-14)
Meet 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews
This is a great book to get young readers hooked into the genre of mystery. As a Reading Specialist, I would highly recommend this book to be added to any 5th or 6th grade classroom. The frequent twist and turns keeps the reader engaged. An added bonus is the connection to music and exposure to another culture. As Neela solves the case of her missing instrument she developes unexpected friendships. This is also a great book to discuss values and get kids debating issues of lying and ownership.
There don't seem to be very many books for younger readers that explore the culture of India or the modern culture of Indians in America. Sheela Chari takes this opportunity to expand the horizons of American children and young adults. She shows pride for her heritage, culture and music in this wonderful book about a Middle School girl, Neela, whose prized veena disappears. She becomes mixed up in the history and the instrument's curse adding a twist to the story worthy of a Scooby Doo mystery. This book's musical tones struck a chord of interest for me that would not let me put it down. Kudos to Sheela Chari for bringing light to a culture with such a beautiful and colorful heritage and opening it to our younger readers.
This...IS THE BEST BOOK EVER
What a fantastic story! My 8 year old daughter and I absolutely loved this book! Very well written with just the right amount of mystery to keep it interesting without being far-fetched. Sheela Chari has done a beautiful job exposing young (and grown) readers alike to South Indian culture in a captivating and fun way. I would highly recommend this book! Looking forward to Ms. Chari's next novel.