Review: Asha And The Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan.
‘I wish you were my nanijee,’ I say, my voice quivering. ‘I need her so much.’ A grey feather tinged with gold floats down and lands at my foot. I stroke its silky softness and weave it into my plait. ‘Perhaps I’ll call you my spirit bird.’
(Asha And The Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan. P24.)
Asha loves her home in the foot of the Himalayas, except that she misses her papa who works in the city. When debt collectors come to stake a claim on the house, Asha discovers that papa has stopped sending money. In fact, nobody has heard from him at all.
Determined that she won’t lose her home or go to England, Asha sets off on a journey to find her papa. She will have to cross the world’s highest mountains, facing the dangers which come with such a crossing. As hunger and tiredness set in, Asha seeks courage from a bird. She is certain this is the spirit of her nanijee, here to watch over her.
A story about friendship, determination and love.
A beautiful and heartfelt story about a girl who would cross mountains to check up on her father.
Asha stands out as a protagonist is brave but not fearless, however fearless she may believe herself to be. She is motivated by love for her family and her home and acts out of necessity and not a reckless need to put herself in danger. She knows fear along the way but seeks assurance in her religious beliefs, particularly that the spirit of her grandmother is watching over her.
The settings are brought to life with sensory detail. I felt as if I had listened to the crickets, and sipped milk with cinnamon and smelt the rose petals in a local woman’s hut. It feels as though Jasbinder Bilan has not so much written a story as taken real places and brought them to life with a special magic.
Nanijee’s spirit brings a sense of security to the reader as well as to Asha. It was lovely to hear about Asha’s religious beliefs and to understand how they might have guided her along the journey. This would make a lovely book to read ahead of a religious education unit because religious practice makes so much more sense when we understand how they guide a person’s life.
Asha’s friendship with Jeevan was another highlight. At first she has a rigid idea of what his help and friendship should look like, but as the story moves on she finds a different respect for him.
A courageous journey to remain at home with family. This is a beautiful book which I would recommend to anyone looking for a character with a fighting spirit.
Thanks to Chicken House Books for my gifted copy of Asha And The Spirit Bird. Opinions my own.