Author Spotlight: Padma Venkatraman

Padma Venkatraman has been an oceanographer, a teacher, and also a writer. My first experience with her storytelling was A Time to Dance, a fabulous novel in verse published a few years ago [My Review]. That led me to seek out her other books.

Venkatraman has published three young adult novels and recently wrote a powerful and moving middle grade story about young people trying to survive under very difficult circumstances.

The Bridge Home
Nancy Paulsen Books

When Viji and her sister, Rukku, whose developmental disability makes her overly trusting and vulnerable to the perils of the world, run away to live on their own, the situation could not be more grim. Life on the streets of the teeming city of Chennai is harsh for girls considered outcasts, but the sisters manage to find shelter on an abandoned bridge. There they befriend Muthi and Arul, two boys in a similar predicament, and the four children bond together and form a family of sorts. Viji starts working with the boys scavenging in trash heaps while Rukku makes bead necklaces, and they buy food with what little money they earn. They are often hungry and scared but they have each other–and Kutti, the best dog ever. When the kids are forced from their safe haven on the bridge, they take shelter in a graveyard. But it is now the rainy season and they are plagued by mosquitos, and Rukku and Muthu fall ill. As their symptoms worsen, Viji and Arul must decide whether to risk going for help–when most adults in their lives have proven themselves untrustworthy–or to continue holding on to their fragile, hard-fought freedom.

Mini-Review: The Bridge Home is a book filled with an amazing amount of love. Viji and Rukku truly love each other more than anything else. As long as they are together, they can face just about anything. Their story is about family – the one you are born to and also the one you make.

Viji’s home has never been peaceful, but has become increasingly dangerous. She is not willing to have life simply happen to her though. She wants a safer and happier life for herself and her sister so they make their way out into the world. Viji is independent and finds it difficult to accept charity so she looks for ways they can earn what they need. In the process, Viji and Rukku discover some of their strengths and abilities. They both have much to offer the world.

The girls meet up with two boys and together they face illness, hunger, heartbreak, and loss. Readers may shed a few tears (almost a guarantee), but will also be inspired to hope and reach out to others.

Check out the giveaway below for a chance to get a copy thanks to the author.

Padma’s Young Adult Titles

A Time to Dance
Nancy Paulsen Books

Padma Venkatraman’s inspiring story of a young girl’s struggle to regain her passion and find a new peace is told lyrically through verse that captures the beauty and mystery of India and the ancient Bharatanatyam dance form. This is a stunning novel about spiritual awakening, the power of art, and above all, the courage and resilience of the human spirit.

Veda, a classical dance prodigy in India, lives and breathes dance—so when an accident leaves her a below-knee amputee, her dreams are shattered. For a girl who’s grown used to receiving applause for her dance prowess and flexibility, adjusting to a prosthetic leg is painful and humbling. But Veda refuses to let her disability rob her of her dreams, and she starts all over again, taking beginner classes with the youngest dancers. Then Veda meets Govinda, a young man who approaches dance as a spiritual pursuit. As their relationship deepens, Veda reconnects with the world around her, and begins to discover who she is and what dance truly means to her. — Cover image and summary via IndieBound

Island’s End
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

From the acclaimed author of Climbing the Stairs comes a fascinating story set on a remote island untouched by time. Uido is ecstatic about becoming her tribe’s spiritual leader, but her new position brings her older brother’s jealousy and her best friend’s mistrust. And looming above these troubles are the recent visits of strangers from the mainland who have little regard for nature or the spirits, and tempt the tribe members with gifts, making them curious about modern life. When Uido’s little brother falls deathly ill, she must cross the ocean and seek their help. Having now seen so many new things, will Uido have the strength to believe in herself and the old ways? And will her people trust her to lead them to safety when a catastrophic tsunami threatens? Uido must overcome everyone’s doubts, including her own, if she is to keep her people safe and preserve the spirituality that has defined them.

Drawing on firsthand experience from her travels to the Andaman Islands, Padma Venkatraman was inspired to write this story after meeting natives who survived the 2004 tsunami and have been able to preserve their unique way of life. Uido’s transformation from a young girl to tribal leader will touch both your heart and mind.

Climbing the Stairs
Putnam Juvenile

A remarkable debut novel set in India that shows one girl’s struggle for independence.

During World War II and the last days of British occupation in India, fifteen-year-old Vidya dreams of attending college. But when her forward-thinking father is beaten senseless by the British police, she is forced to live with her grandfather’s large traditional family, where the women live apart from the men and are meant to be married off as soon as possible.

Vidya’s only refuge becomes her grandfather’s upstairs library, which is forbidden to women. There she meets Raman, a young man also living in the house who relishes her intellectual curiosity. But when Vidya’s brother decides to fight with the hated British against the Nazis, and when Raman proposes marriage too soon, Vidya must question all she has believed in.

Padma Venkatraman’s debut novel poignantly shows a girl struggling to find her place in a mixed up world. Climbing the Stairs is a powerful story about love and loss set against a fascinating historical backdrop.

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4 Replies to “Author Spotlight: Padma Venkatraman

  1. The setting. promised suspense, and high stakes for these characters make this a must read book for me. It sounds like a page-turner.

  2. So excited to check out The Bridge Home! I’m always looking for books that tell stories from around the world, and this looks like exactly what I’m looking for in a classroom library!

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