Asha and the Spirit Bird
Publisher: Chicken House
Asha’s life on her parents’ farm in the foothills of the Himalayas would be perfect – if only her father could be there with them. He works in a factory in a far-off city, sending money home, because the farm doesn’t pay enough for them to live on. But then one day, the money stops. Inspired by the spirit of her grandmother in the form of a lamagaia bird, Asha decides to set off on a dangerous journey, to find her father and bring him home before money-lenders make them penniless.
Throughout this warm, comforting story, religious faith and spiritual beliefs provide an anchor for Asha. Animals protect her, and seem to be filled with the spirits of her beloved dead. Although the story explores some dark and terrible truths about the vulnerability of the poor in India, it manages to do so with a constantly reassuring tone. Asha and her friends face slave labour and exploitation, but magical help, human kindness and faith get them through all dangers, and the final ending is as perfect as any fairy tale. Despite some dark subject matter, this book would therefore be suitable for most younger readers.