Eleven-year-old Dini and her best friend, Maddie, love Bollywood films. These musical extravaganzas speak to life as they would like to live it with heartbreak, courage, and happy endings. Though Maddie understands even less Hindi than Dini, whose parents are from India, they both agree that "little things like language don't get in the way of a really good fillum, which is what true fans affectionately call these movies." The two girls especially love Bollywood superstar Dolly Singh and have signed up for Bollywood dance camp together.
But Dini's plans for the summer are ruined when her mother comes home with the news that their family will be moving to India. Not only are her plans for dance camp cancelled, she will be separated from Maddie for two whole years! Dini's only consolation is the possibility of running into Dolly while she is in India. Even though it's a big country, rumor puts Dolly in the same small town where Dini and her family will be living.
Swapnagiri is a small town in the mountains of Southern India where Dini's mother runs a clinic and Dini will go to school. Its name means "dream mountain." Dini hopes this is the place where her dreams of finally meeting Dolly will come true. But life in Swapnagiri is very different from Maryland. They find monkeys swimming in the water tank on top of their house. The electricity is always going out. Worse, living on the opposite side of the globe means that it's difficult to find a good time to talk to her best friend on the phone. When Dini is awake, Maddie is asleep and vice versa. Dini can already feel her friendship with Maddie drifting. She's lonely, and the only girl she's met in Swapnagiri seems to hate Dini as much as she hates Dolly.
So Dini comes up with her Grand Plan to Fix Everything. She hopes it will fix her friendship with Maddie, help her make new friends in her new home, and solve the mystery of why Dolly has vanished from the Bollywood films Dini loves. With a little help from a baker, a handyman, and the Indian postal service, Dini hopes to make a little Bollywood magic of her own.
The Grand Plan to Fix Everything is written by Uma Krishnaswami, born in New Delhi, but currently writing and teaching here in the United States. On her website she writes, “Some of my stories are set in the United States, some in India. Some cross from one place into the other and back again, just like me.” Part of what makes The Grand Plan to Fix Everything so appealing is the juxtaposition of two cultures in a story about an ordinary kid. Abigail Halpin’s illustrations reinforce this sense of the everyday, drawing the reader into the story, and focusing on what Dini and Maddie have in common with the reader, rather than purely on the differences Dini encounters when she moves to India. Between the two of them, they capture the color and rhythm of Bollywood films, despite the fact that almost all of this has to be created in the minds of a reader who may not have seen one before.
Krishnaswami’s website is also packed with information and resources for writers and teachers. She is deeply involved in a number of writing, teaching, and literacy projects, including the National Writing Project, a professional development network designed to serve teachers of writing at all grade levels and in all subjects. The project is designed to boost student achievement by helping educators improve the teaching of writing in US schools. As a reviewer of children’s books, I am constantly amazed not just by the books authors produce --- often written by people who have other jobs besides writing --- but also by the labor and achievements behind them.
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