Chitra Banerjee Divakaruniís chapter book, The Conch Bearer, is the story of Anand' quest. Anandís middle-class family is on hard times. His father is away in Bahrain working, his whereabouts are presently unknown by his family. And to make matters worse, his sister, Meera witnesses a terrible incident and becomes a mute. He, with his mother and sister, are forced to move to a tenement in Kolkata, India(Calcutta).
Anandís constant belief in magic helps him bear his circumstances. He is not a fanciful twelve-year-old. Anand faces the harsh realities each day by working for Haru, a mean taskmaster, for a few rupees.
One brisk, cold day, an old man comes to the tea stall where Anand is employed. Anand, feeling a connection to the man, gives the stranger his own lunch. A glass of hot tea and pakoras. This leaves Anand without food, but without a word, the tendered-hearted boy continues his work with his own stomach rumbling.
Anandís journey begins when the old stranger turns up on his doorstep that same evening. After much contemplation, Anand finally allows the stranger entrance into the modest shack. Meera sits mutely as has she has done since the incident.
The old man, now known as Abhaydatta, sits on a mat and gives Anand foodstuffs to add to the pot of lentils. As the stew simmers, Abhaydatta, tells the young boy about a stolen conch and his role in retrieving it. He reveals that he is returning the conch to its rightful place and desires Anand to accompany him to the Silver Valley in the Himalayas.
Anand is ecstatic at the chance of a lifetime, to accomplish a magical quest. Suddenly, reality slams him hard in the stomach. He canít leave his mother and sister. His wage is a pittance, but in need. Meera stirs on her mat. Abhaydatta beckons the small girl to him. Anand, in surprise, watches his sister respond to the strangerís request. The old man says a few words over the mute girlís head.
At that moment, Anandís mother returns from work. She, seeing a strange man with his hands on her young daughter, chases him from the shack. Mother does not believe the man can help Meera and forbids Anand to travel with the fake.
Morning comes and Meera is talking as she did before the incident. Anandís thankful mother gives him her blessing to travel with Abhaydatta. Here is the start of Anandís adventures. On the way to join the old traveler, he meets Nisha, a street sweeper. No more will be writtten, I don't want spoil the wonderful story.
Oh, the trio faces obstacles, bewitched animals and the evil Surabhanu in this chapter book. The Conch Bearer is the first book in The Brotherhood of the Conch series. The Mirrors of Fire and Dreaming is the second. Travel with the city kids, Anand and Nisha, throughout the beautiful Indian countryside. Enjoy Chitra Banerjee Divakaruniís fantasy book.
The Conch Bearer is a fast paced book for tween and teen readers. If you want your child to read fantasy books, other than the Harry Potter series, this is the one for you. An added bonus for non-residents of India, is the descriptions of the places traveled by the trio. For example, her description of the train station is so detailed the reader smells the foods, trains and feels the crush of people. And, the din of talking people, shouting hawkers and moving trains rings the ears.
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