Anjali Banerjee began writing at an early age, having been read to by her parents she had a strong love of words and story. Her first book, stapled together with her own hands, was about a lost puppy on a beach in Bengal. Anjali’s fascination with animals and nature was already a strong part of her personality. Her family immigrated to Canada from India when she was two months old, and she greatly enjoyed playing on the shores of the Winnipeg River. However, her parents did insist that she attend school, take ballet and figure skating lessons along with swimming and piano lessons. They later moved to California where Anjali received degrees in anthropology and psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. After working at a variety of jobs, including veterinary assistant and as an office manager, she rediscovered her love for writing and began her career as an author. Currently, Anjali and her husband live in the Pacific Northwest with six crazy cats and a black rabbit named Friday.
Looking for Bapu
Almost nine-year-old Anu has lost his beloved grandfather, Bapu. If only Anu had had the cell phone that Dad gave him for emergencies; if only he’d run faster to reach home and call the paramedics. It is unthinkable that Bapu is gone forever; there must be some way to bring him back to life. Inspired by a video of an Indian holy boy, Anu shaves his head, fasts, tells fortunes, rolls (somersaulting his way to school), and finally visits Karnak, the great magician–anything to have Bapu in his life once again. In the end it is Anu’s father who suggests that Anu can’t let Bapu go because of his unspoken feelings of guilt. “It wasn’t your fault that he died. If you’re keeping Bapu here because you want to be forgiven, you can let him go. Bapu doesn’t need to forgive you. He knows it wasn’t your fault.” This touching (and at times humorous) story of a young boy coping with death is also a wonderful introduction to Indian culture. Woven seamlessly into the story are the Hindu gods and goddesses that Bapu worships and many Hindi traditions and customs. This is a wonderful addition to any school library. Recommended. Reviewer: Anita Barnes Lowen (Children’s Literature).
Thirteen-year-old Maya wishes her glamorous cousin Pinky could come for a visit. That wish comes true, but turns out to have repercussions that Maya in her impulsiveness has not anticipated. Gripped by jealousy, she begs the elephant-headed god Ganesh to remove all obstacles from her life–is not that what his role is? As Maya crosses the threshold from the real to the magical world, at first it seems to her that the rules have changed in her favor. Suddenly, however, it becomes apparent that there are no rules and she is caught up in the runaway consequences of her thoughtless wishes. In the end, when her cousin leaves and it feels the life she knew is tumbling in ruins about her shoulders, Maya and her father make a whirlwind trip to India to seek the precious Ganesh statue and set things straight again. Banerjee’s novel effectively juxtaposes the cultural ins and outs of being a Canadian of Indian origin, with the universality of teenage longings. The narrative voice rests securely with Maya, even when she has to stretch to make meaning from her rapidly changing sense of the world. The time period of the story is sketched in with a light hand–the Parti Québécois has just asserted itself, and the Bee Gees are featured on tee-shirts. Banerjee is at her best when she is peeling the layers of family relationships. Mrs. Ghose’s shock at Maya’s lack of Bengali skills, Dad yelling on the phone line to India, Pinky’s takeover of Maya’s bathroom–these can amuse all readers while ringing ruefully true to those who have been there. Finally, her treatment of Lord Ganesh himself succeeds in capturing that subtle combination of familiarity and respect customarily invoked by this delightful Hindu deity. Reviewer: Uma Krishnaswami (Children’s Literature).
While her parents visit relatives in India, eleven-year-old Poppy Ray is staying with her Uncle Sanjay. He is a veterinarian on Nisqually Island in the state of Washington. Life on this remote island is quite different from her life in Los Angeles. She is so caught up in the material things that she overlooks what is truly important. Everything gets off to a shaky start when Poppy Ray’s suitcase falls off the back of the truck. Her clothes and vet kit, which she bought with her own money, are ruined. When she arrives at the clinic, the office manager, Saundra MacLeod, is clearly not happy to have her there. Over the course of the summer, Poppy Ray learns a great deal about caring for sick animals, making friends, and dealing with disappointments. Just how far she has come is demonstrated when she takes Uncle Sanjay’s dog, Stu, for a walk on the beach. When Stu’s paw starts to bleed, Poppy Ray realizes they are all alone on the beach and she must stop the bleeding and get Stu back to the house. Banerjee captures both the exuberance and exasperation that Poppy Ray feels that summer. With the calmness of Uncle Sanjay, and the demeanor of the pets and their owners, Poppy Ray learns to focus on what matters in life. When working with animals, says Uncle Sanjay, “you must use your mind, your heart, your steady hands.” Poppy Ray’s growth is shown through her gradual understanding that it is not the external things that are important, but what is inside a person. Well-drawn characters and a summer vacation with substance make this an involving read. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo (Children’s Literature).
“A Writer’s Journey from India to the Pacific Northwest” is a customized Power Point presentation suitable for students 10 and up. It includes fun maps, family photos, and images of manuscripts and book covers, tracing Anjali’s path to becoming a published author.
To learn more about Anjali and her publications please visit www.anjalibanerjee.com.