Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Different Cultures, but Same School Day Woes

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Different Cultures, but Same School Day Woes

Article excerpt

Byline: Brandy Hilboldt Allport


Authors: Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan

Data: Scholastic, ages 9 and older, $16.99

"Save Me a Seat," a chapter book that highlights the trials and tribulations of fifth grade, is written by two authors. Sarah Weeks wrote the chapters called "Joe," and Gita Varadarajan wrote the chapters called "Ravi." Both of the alternating first-person perspectives offer age-appropriate insight into what it is like to start a new year of school with some really old baggage: the desire to fit in.

"My first name is Ravi. It's pronounced rah-VEE, with a soft rah and a strong Vee. In Sanskrit, it means "the sun. In America, people call me RAH-Vee with the stress on the first syllable. That doesn't mean anything."

Joe and Ravi might be from different countries, but their experiences as they try to adjust are universal. Both the boys, who take an almost instant dislike to each other, struggle making connections with their classmates. Joe because he needs a little extra help understanding and following directions, and Ravi because he is navigating an entirely new system at Albert Einstein Elementary with different expectations and customs. Plus, Ravi learned English in India, and his new New Jersey classmates are having a hard time understanding his accent. However you look at it, the two boys both have communication issues.

"We moved to Hamilton, New Jersey, a few months ago ... My father got a promotion at his IT company in Bangalore, so they transferred him to America. In India, Amma and Appa and I had our own house with a cook and a big garden ... my grandparents lived in their own flat nearby. Now we all live together in a townhouse, a place called Hamilton Mews. Things are very different here in America."

Though Joe has lived in the same town all his life and Ravi and his family have just moved to the U.S., the boys find themselves in the same boat when it comes to navigating the murky water of late-elementary school friendships. …

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