Asha lives on the family farm with her mother in rural India.
Her father is away working in the city, and when the money he sends stops suddenly, a wicked aunt arrives. She’s determined to seize the property – and the treasure rumoured to be hidden on the land. Guided by a majestic bird which Asha believes to be the spirit of her grandmother, she and her best friend Jeevan embark on a journey to the city, across the Himalayas, to find her father and save her home …
This is a middle grade fantasy, which I don’t read much these days, but I couldn’t resist picking this one up because of the lovely cover! Really this book is worth having just for the cover art alone, but it also has a great story to go with it, so yay! 🙂
Asha & The Spirit Bird follows Asha and her friend Javeen as they go on a journey to find Asha’s missing father. When her mother, forced to borrow money to save their family farm, can’t pay back the loans begins contemplating moving the family to England where her brother lives, leaving India, and Asha’s father, behind. This is devastating to Asha so she decides to take matters into her own hands and find her father. Though she encounters many obstacles, she’s helped along the way by her friend Javeen, some other friends she meets along the way, and a bird which she believes is the spirit of her grandmother.
In some ways this story put me in mind of A Little Princesss by Frances Hodgson Burnett, which is a favorite of mine. The missing father, children having to band together to take down the evil adults, the wonder of magic and Asha’s unwavering belief in it while others have to be brought around, all of these things felt familiar in the most delightful way. I love stories when ‘children know best’. That is, the adults in the story, and their failure to act, spurs the children into taking on things they normally wouldn’t because, well, they’re children. I know when I was a kid, I never felt like I was incapable of an anything, and I think that’s part of being a kid, thinking that you can do everything. So, I love stories like these because they show that, well, yes, you can do everything. But they also show kids the perils you encounter along the way. The path through life isn’t an easy one–sometimes you’ll have hardships and failures, but you have to keep trying.
The setting, in particular, is not something we see much of in fantasy, especially not children’s fantasy, and I really loved reading about it. I had a great time exploring this world with Asha, and learning more about her culture. You really get a sense of country life in a smaller village, especially when its contrasted against the parts that take place in the city later in the story. I also really loved Asha as a character, even when she was being too stubborn for her own good. It’s clear that her heart is in the right place, but she definitely needed some of the lessons she learns on this adventure. Asha and Javeen’s friendship was a real highlight of the story for me. They’ve been best friends for years, but they still go through some rocky times. I think at times Asha takes Javeen for granted, and this is one of the things she has to learn along the way–not to be so focused on herself and her own problems that she overlooks when a friend is in need.
Asha & The Spirit Bird was a delightful adventure, full of hope and wonder. Had a really fun time with this one. 4/5 stars.