Nov 01, 11
You never want to come out too early in review of a book, and CHAINED doesn't release until May of 2012. My apologies--in advance--to not only Lynne Kelly (who--by the way--taught Mr. Hankins how to use a hashtag on Twitter ((just in case you wanted to know who to blame for this)) but to the publisher, Farrar Straus Giroux as well for this early, early review. . .but you see?
I have to be first on this one.
We're always wondering, right? What book will capture our attention in the next year? Pull at us in all of the places a work can pull? Lead us to discussions--not only with our reading community at large--but that community at very, very small--our classroom. Which titles will lead us to deeper understandings of our place in this world and our connection with others--familiar and unfamiliar? Local and global? With our fellow man. . .and with nature? And we ask all of these questions while holding on dearly to those books we have loved this year, right? And finally, what book will fill up the Goodreads feed with the number of times it will be marked "To Read" by the community here?
Out of the gate, CHAINED is one of those middle grade/early YA books we will talk about in the spring of 2012. It has all of elements of a class/student friendly read, and I wouldn't be surprised to see CHAINED adopted not only at the classroom level, but by university professors offering multicultural titles as part of their MG/YA literature survey courses.
When Hastin's younger sister falls ill and has to go to the hospital, Hastin stays behind to take care of the home. His only companion piece in the world now is the small stone that his deceased father left for him along with the story of its coloration and smoothness. An extended hospital stay means that Hastin not only has to stay home by himself even longer, it means that his mother must take on a servant capacity job in order to pay off the rupees necessary to cover her daughter's care.
A chance invitation to go into town to help a friend sell a camel (one of the books early charming moments), affords Hastin a chance to see his mother and her new workplace. When he senses his mother's mistreatment and witnesses the harsh conditions she must endure, Hastin vows to find a way to secure a job to make the payment to the hospital (but not until the camel has eaten part of the master's topiary).
Hastin finds work as an elephant keeper under a seeming huckster named Timir who is planning to re-establish his circus, having had some success as a circus man before. Hastin comes under the "care" of Timir and awaits his duties as a elephant keeper (Timir and his assistant Sharad must first capture an elephant). In the interim, Hastin meets Ne Min (one of the wisest, most tender/gentle mentors you will find in current MG/YA realistic, multicultural literature), a kindly servant who serves in the capacity of cook and general maintenance.
Eventually, Timir captures his elephant and Hastin learns the ways of keeping an elephant. He also witnesses treatment of the elephant, who Hastin names Nandita (which means Joy) that gives him pause for concern. Along the way, Ne Min assists in the care of Nandita making Hastin question how Ne Min knows so much about elephants (one of few times in the past few books I have read in the past year wherein I had that "oh. Gasp!" kind of moments while reading.
Each chapter opens with a quote from a book about the care of elephants. These quotes work so nicely as a pre-cursor for what is to happen in that section of the book and allows Kelly to carry the story with what seems to be veiled evidence of the research she has surely done in the crafting of this story.
As the conditions worsen for Nandita and the threat of sale or extermination loom for her, Hastin must make a decision regarding the disposition of his large, gray friend. But you will have to read that decision for yourself. . .
The moments between Hastin and Nandita are tender and touching. I actually felt like I was in that small sleeping quarter with Hastin, who is tricked into not knowing how long he will have to stay to pay of the debt to Timir, and Nandita. I felt especially close to this book having just finished the newest SCIENTIST IN THE FIELD book about elephants in the past weekend.
The moments between Hastin and Ne Min are of the same ilk. I wanted to know everything about Ne Min right away, but Kelly--in her debut work--let's Ne Min reveal himself in bits and pieces with the touch of a master craftsman writer.
In the end, you will cheer for Hastin and Nandita. Students of the Hero's Journey will not be disappointed for all of the markers in place that will let you follow the circle around.
Themes that come out of CHAINED are worthy of discussion in the reading workshop classroom. Guilt and Shame are covered to the extent that the book makes an interesting ladder to THE CRUCIBLE with Timir and Danforth taking on similar roles in their governance over the disposition of others without any kind of effort given toward their nurture or even basic maintenance (ask Mr. Hankins how this works sometime because the idea is still fresh in my head with possibilities building new rungs and ladders all of the time).
Shorter chapters make CHAINED an excellent choice for classroom read-aloud. As the book releases in May, it would be a nice hit for early fall when the kids come back to the classroom and the summer will afford teachers plenty of time to have the book read and discussed (follow Mr. Hankins at @PaulWHankins and I will personally discuss the book with you).
The multicultural setting and characters will make CHAINED a welcome addition to the reading classroom where more multicultural titles are being sought. The nature of child labor, Indian culture, and elephants just naturally lend themselves to non-fiction texts that would cover the same. Kelly offers some information regarding these in the back of the ARC. And I was so pleased to see that Mitali Perkins (BAMBOO PEOPLE) was one of the authors Kelly sought out to help with some of the details that work their way into the story I read today. Kelly have done her homework as she has written this story, and in a small way I feel as though I have known Hastin for some time--although not by name--from my interactions with Kelly at Twitter and Facebook.
Kelly has a strong inter-web presence already and her advocacy for middle grade/young adult literature as evidenced by her active participation in discussions and forum offered by social media--even before her own book has released--gives her great credibility in this teacher/reader/reviewer/writer's eyes. Here is an accessible, promising, young author who I can only hope has more and more to share by way of story.
As I stated earlier, I had to be the first out on this book. So much, that I am typing and refreshing to make sure that no one else sneaks any stars out there before I have a chance to hit SAVE.
Here is the promise of a super upcoming year of writing/reading. I have read other titles coming out in 2012, but Kelly is one of the first official Class of 2012 title I have read. Her work here in CHAINED allows her to move to the front of the class. And if her work is any indication of what the class of 2012 has to offer us in the new year, we are in for a real reading treat.
Psst. . .if you get to the end of this review. . .Lynne, this is for you. Thanks for everything!