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Book Review: Sona Sharma: A Friend Indeed by Chitra Soundar (Walker Books)

Illustrated by Jen Khatun


For ages 6+


*[Ad-review copy]


So often have I seen this series in bookshops and online and wanted so much to read one of them. The beautiful cover-artwork every time just tempting me like sweets in a sweet shop! I am now the proud owner of the 3rd in this adorable series for young readers, and I’m pleased as punch. I'm a firm believer in how incredibly important to read 'around the world' to build empathy and cultural awareness!

Chitra Soundar is one of the highly respected Goddesses of children’s literature and I have to say that I feel very silly not to have started reading this series sooner, as it’s absolutely superb. Paired with Jen Khatun’s vibrant, lively, characterful and plentiful illustrations throughout the story, we’re onto a winner and a permanent spot on my bookshelves, wherever they may be.


About the book

It’s not unusual for me to receive a request from a head teacher for books for their classrooms on democracy, especially those featuring the election process. I have to say until now, although I have been able to recommend books and meet the brief, nothing really compares to this story, which takes the young reader through the election process from conception right through to post-election day in great detail and with such clarity. What’s even more exciting is that it takes place within the school and it happens to children

You may be reading this thinking, “hang on, Nicci, there’s this book or that book where children are involved in class elections”. Yes, that’s right, but what I think really stands out with this story is that the narrative is entirely structured from start to finish around the election process, with the exception of the first few pages of setting the scene, meeting the characters and build-up.


The story is set in India. Sona’s home is lively, colourful, vibrant and filled with love and amazing food! Readers of the series to date will know that Sona now has a little baby sister. Her doting grandparents are always on hand at home to provide support and love when her amma/mummy or appa/daddy are busy with work or looking after the baby.

Illustration © Jen Khatun
Illustration © Jen Khatun

Best friends, Joy and Renu, are Sona’s rocks. Every morning they go to school together in their auto-rickshaw, chatting away, excited about their day ahead.


Their teacher, Miss Rao, has a some exciting news for them one morning - they’re going to hold an election to decide who will be their new class leader. When Sona jumps the gun and puts herself forward as a candidate, purely to counter the only other candidate - a rather annoying and overconfident new kid from the city, her two bestest friends in the world suddenly stop talking to her.

Illustration © Jen Khatun
Illustration © Jen Khatun

While Sona feels rejected by her friends, she also learns it’s going to be her sister’s first birthday celebrations, and all of a sudden she feels so desperately alone and confused about the elections. Her all time fully reliable and loveable friend is Elephant, a magical cuddly toy who comes to life and is able to talk to her, cuddle her and even make her laugh. Thank goodness Elephant is there to help coach her through this tricky time!

Illustration © Jen Khatun
Illustration © Jen Khatun

Meanwhile, back at school, Miss Rao is steadily teaching the children about the importance of a democratic election process including creating a campaign, canvassing voters, creating a ballot box and more… Things don’t get any easier or happier for Sona once Joy puts herself forward as a third candidate in the election, and what’s more she seems to have what it really takes to be a fair and respected class leader.


Illustration © Jen Khatun
Illustration © Jen Khatun

Luckily for Sona, she has perceptive and intuitive relatives who share stories and experiences with her that she can reflect on to truly decide whether remaining in the race for class leader is really what she wants.


What a fabulous story about democracy and its process, families drawing on their own lived experiences and wisdom to help out without pointing out any obvious flaws and failings, which would really hurt feelings unnecessarily at such a young age. What a celebration of a teacher and her teaching process for primary age children. A superb read for all and a great classroom read out loud story too. I will definitely seek out the first two books in this series, and I hope that there will be more to come!!


About the creators


Chitra Soundar (author)

Chitra Soundar is an Indian-born British author and storyteller. She has published more than 30 books and is inspired by the rich heritage of epics and folktales from India as well as India's natural beauty.


Website: https://www.chitrasoundar.com







Jen Khatun (illustrator)

Jen Khatun is a children's book illustrator cozily living by the coast of East Sussex in the UK. Her work resonates the hidden magic in everyday life and the close bonds between people, nature, and memories.


Website: https://www.jenkhatun.com




Key themes


India

politics

democracy

families

friendship

imaginary friends


Grab a copy


Buy here through my affiliate link at Bookshop.org or purchase from your local independent bookshop...

Publication date: 1 September 2022

Format: Paperback


Also in this series:


*My review copy was kindly sent to me by the publisher.


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