National Book Award finalist Perkins’ picture book depicts a tale of immigration and adaptation.
In the opening spreads, Shanti says “goodbye” to her West Bengal village, with its “warm monsoon rains” and its “green palm trees,” and gives a dubious “hello” to a “town with cold rain / And orange and yellow leaves.” Here, in the United States, Shanti lives a bifurcated life: Inside feels familiar, with Ma cooking luchi; outside feels strange, with “napkins on laps” and “no elbows on tables.” Shanti occupies a liminal space, the “in-between” of the title, ricocheting from kathak dance to ballet, from Bollywood to Hollywood, from harmonium to piano. “Learning the town. / Remembering the village. / Again and again. / In Between.” When a White kid explains T-ball to Shanti and then demands, “Where are you from, Mars?” Shanti “feels tired” at this obviously racist attack. A couple of page turns and some months (judging by the illustrations) later, however, suddenly Shanti realizes she is “good at making anywhere feel like home. / Especially here. / In the space between cultures.” Kolkata-born, Australia-based Naidu’s illustrations are light and full of motion, reinforcing both the book’s tone and its content. Shanti’s expressions, including wonder, frustration, and exhaustion, are particularly emotive. In an author’s note, Perkins explains that such code-switching was exhausting to her as a new immigrant but acknowledges it as a gift as an adult. (This book was reviewed digitally with 8.5-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 9% of actual size.)
The book will appeal particularly to children and families navigating this space between cultures.(glossary) (Picture book. 5-8)