Reading/Interest Level: Primary, Intermediate
Author: Uma Krishnaswami
Illustrator: Abigail Halpin
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Eleven-year-old Dini loves Bollywood movies, particularly those starring her favorite actress Dolly Singh. Dini and her best friend, Maddie, know all the words and dances to every movie Dolly has starred in. When Dini’s mother gets a job in India, Dini dreams of meeting Dolly Singh in person. She and Maddie write a fan letter to Dolly in the hopes that Dolly will want to meet Dini too. But Dini is very disappointed when she learns that her new home in the small town of Swapnagiri, far from Bollywood where Dolly lives. Her disappointment is even harder to bear because Dini is very homesick for Maddie. As Dini settles into her new life in India, she is very surprised to find that the fan letter she and Maddie wrote has made its way to Swapnagiri too: Dolly is living in the little town just a short walk from Dini’s new home! Dini’s determination, combined with a lively series of failed plans and successful adventures, turns her dreams into reality.
Uma Krishnaswami has written an entertaining story for intermediate readers. She has created a clever and believable character in eleven-year-old Dini. Krishnaswami intersperses Indian words and culture into the story, adding an interesting dimension for her readers. The themes of friendship, adjustment, and resilience are intertwined throughout the plot of the book. Dini’s confusion and sadness of moving away from her best friend is discussed, as well as the need to be open to making new friends and having new experiences. As the dream of meeting Dolly Singh becomes a reality, Dini becomes aware of the difference between the actress and the actual person. As Dini learns to accept the changes in her life, maintain her friendship with Maddie, and develop new relationships, she realizes that reality is often far better than the dream. This book is fast-paced, charming, and teaches valuable life lessons. Readers will look forward to the sequel to see what other adventures Dini and Maddie will embark on.