Kalpana's Dream

by Judith Clarke

Neema can’t figure out why Gull Oliver, the boy she keeps noticing at school,... read more

Neema can’t figure out why Gull Oliver, the boy she keeps noticing at school, makes her think of shepherds and lambs. Gull, in the meantime, can’t stop thinking about Neema, and has taken to flying by her house on his skateboard. Far away in India, Neema’s great grandmother, Kalpana, dreams of flying. Soon after she decides it’s time to visit her great-granddaughter in Australia. In the midst of Kalpana’s visit, rife with language barriers and painful misunderstandings, Neema and her best friend, Kate, are struggling with their assigned essay topic for Ms. Dallimore’s 7B English class: Who am I? To Kate’s mind writing is akin to wallowing through heavy mud, until a moment of inspiration: Isn’t explaining why you hate someone one way to answer the question of who you are? As Ms. Dallimore’s high hopes for what her students can achieve rapidly dwindle, rumors circulate that Ms. Dallimore’s boyfriend is Count Dracula. All Ms. Dallimore knows is that Vladimir’s unusual sensitivity to light makes for dark and sometimes dismal meals. Australian author Judith Clarke’s extraordinary novel weaves the stories of five different characters on the verge or in the midst of changes both small and large. Clarke portrays each of their lives with a deft touch as she reveals how moments of understanding can be subtle or even anticlimactic but still have tremendous, transformative power in a narrative that also features marvelous secondary characters, from the mysterious Vladimir to Neema’s parents, Kalpana’s close friend in India to Kate’s little sister. With a sure hand, the author seamlessly shifts from realism into fantasy, sometimes blurring the lines but always grounding her story in the ultimately kind and caring hearts of her characters. (Ages 10–14)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2006

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