GUEST WRITER JEAN ANNE GREEN RECOMMENDS THE BRIDGE HOME BY PADMA VENKATRAMAN
Padma Venkatraman was introduced to the plight of homeless children in India by her mother at an early age. Though a poor, single mother herself, she taught Padma to support charitable causes, especially those that provided education for children. Using a variety of true stories and characters as the basis for The Bridge Home, she creates a powerful look at what home and family looks like for the young and homeless.
Sisters Viji and Rukku do have a “traditional home” at the beginning of the book. However, when their abusive father starts beating not only the mother, who makes excuses and forgives him, but also the girls, Viji decides it is time to take control. The next morning Viji packs their school backpacks with necessities instead of schoolwork. Though the bags are heavy she adds the book her teacher had given her as a gift, unable to leave it behind.
The girls use most of their money on bus fare. Once they arrive at their destination, they struggle to avoid danger and find safety. Rukku is a special needs child and Viji has been taught all her life to keep her sister hidden, and avoid hospitals or schools where they would take Rukku away from the family. Viji worries about taking care of her sister, when in fact, Rukku finds many ways to take care of Viji. The girls meet up with two homeless boys when they seek shelter, eventually coming together as a family, complete with a dog that Rukku befriends.
This story shows how resilient and strong homeless children must be, and how trusting and working with others makes it better. However, they are children and need the support of good, kind adults to break the cycle.
This book is eye opening- examining poverty even beyond books like Paper Things, No Fixed Address, and Benefits of Being An Octopus. And yet, these children become a family and move towards a better life while enduring an incredible loss, together. Hope shines strong throughout.
Jean Anne Green is a middle school teacher in Florenceville, NB- the French Fry Capital of the World. She loves to read, watch hockey and talk books with her daughter, an aspiring librarian.