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Discussion Module

Monsoon Summer
by
Mitali Bose Perkins

Publishing Information: Delacorte Books for Young Readers: New York, 2004
ISBN: 038573123X / 044023840 (PB)
Pages
: 272 p.
Ages: 12 & Up

Summary:
Secretly in love with her friend and business partner Steve, Jazz must spend the summer away from him when her family goes to India during the rainy season to help set up a clinic.

Book Talk:
#1 - Ruined! Jazz Gardner was sure her summer was going to be a disaster. Instead of spending the summer with her best friend Steve- the "friend" she hoped would become a "boyfriend" soon!- Jazz would be traveling to her mother's native land of India to help out at an orphanage there. How could this be! Jazz was sure she and Steve were meant to be a couple and spending the summer together working on the "Biz," the business Jazz and Steve owned together, was sure to bring them together. How could she start a relationship with Steve if she were thousands of miles away in India. India! Her mother might think spending the summer helping create a clinic in an orphanage in India was a great idea- her mother the "do-gooder" - but Jazz was pretty sure this was going to be a disaster of a summer. How would she survive away from her friends, away from the "biz," away from Steve?

#2 - Jazz Gardner and Steve Morales get along great. Not only have they been best friends since grade school, but they even own their own business together as teenagers. Jazz has a problem, though. She loves Steve. And not like a best friend love, but REAL LOVE. She wants to tell him, but she's afraid if she does, he'll laugh, or even worse, quit being her friend. To make matters worse, she's about to leave for the entire summer to go to India, where her mother is from, to volunteer at an orphanage.  She really does not want to do this! Three months away from Steve gives the school's drama queen Miriam Cassidy just enough time to sink her claws into Steve. Does Jazz tell Steve how she really feels and risk what could be the biggest embarassment of her life? Or does she keep her feelings to herself and be satisfied with being his best friend? One thing is for sure: after this summer, things will never quite be the same for Jazz Gardner again. COPYRIGHT
Prepared by Brenda Day, Library Media Specialist, Crowley Middle School, Crowley, Texas at http://www.randomhouse.com/teachers/librarians/booktalks_monsoonsummer

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

Business
Cultural Conflicts
Friendship
Helpfulness in Young Girls
India
Interethnic Families
Monsoons
Orphanages
Teenage Love
Volunteerism

Awards & Reviews:
Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year, 2005
CBC-NCSS Notable Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies, 2005
Lamplighter Award Nominee, 2006-2007
Maryland's Black Eyed Susan Award Nominee, 2005-2006
New York Public Library's Books for the Teen Age, 2005
Texas Library Association's TAYSHAS Best Books for Young Adults, 2005-2006

Recommended by Teen People, Guideposts Sweet 16, and Justine Magazine

BookList , June 1, 2004, p. 1720
Kirkus Reviews , July 14, 2004
School Library Journal , September 2004, p. 215

Jasmine "Jazz" Gardner travels to her mother's native India on a philanthropic quest that is emphatically not her idea, and leaves behind her childhood friend-turned-love interest Steve. With his "Hope you guys survive the visit" ringing in her ears, the journey is not off to an auspicious start. Once in India, however, Jazz is drawn despite herself into many circles - the orphanage where her mother was cared for as an infant, the ritzy school she initially enrolls in, and the world of Danita, the girl who is assigned to be the family's domestic help. This is an unusual perspective on an Indian setting for more than one reason. First of all, Jazz is part Indian, part American, and even her Indian-born mother has few tangible memories of the country, having left it when she was four. As a result, the India we see is not familiar to these characters, as it would be to the families of returning immigrants. Instead it is quite exotic. In addition, it is colored by layers of emotion related to that long-ago adoption. The adoption theme, even one generation removed from the protagonist, might well resonate with the American families who adopt from overseas. Jazz's voice is sassy and likeable. Mature at times for her age, with business-savvy to boot, she leads the reader through cluttered city streets and the cloistered setting of the orphanage, to a final resolution afforded by her own generous gesture. The orphanage, located outside the city of Pune in the western state of Maharashtra, feels generically Indian rather than reflecting the specific geography and linguistic mix of that region. Monsoon Summer is one of a growing number of books for young readers about American familieswith links to the Indian subcontinent. With it, Perkins (The Sunita Experiment) contributes to changing the paradigm of cultural contact from collision to fusion. 2004, Delacorte, Ages 12 up.
--Children's Literature, Uma Krishnaswami

More reviews available at these websites:
From Kidzworld.com - http://www.kidzworld.com/site/p5372.htm
From Chicken Spaghetti - http://chickenspaghetti.typepad.com/chicken_spaghetti/2006/01/review_monsoon_.html

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. Why didn't Jazz want to go to India at first? Was there more than one reason for her reluctance?
  2. Why did her mother want to go? Was there more than one reason for her excitement?
  3. How did each member of the Gardner family change over the summer?
  4. Jazz and Danita help each other to take risks. Describe a friendship where each of you has helped the other to grow or change.
  5. What's the most risky thing you've tried when it comes to helping someone else? Did it work?
  6. Draw a picture of Jazz and Steve in the "Track Team Twins" photo that Jazz hated. Compare drawings. Why did Jazz have such a hard time recognizing that she was beautiful?
  7. Flip through some issues of National Geographic magazine and find photos of women who might be considered beautiful in their own cultures. Make a collage together of beautiful women of all shapes and sizes.
from http://www.mitaliperkins.com/mother_daughter_book_club.htm

Related Websites:
About India
Kamat's Potpourri - http://www.kamat.com/indica/alamkara/index.htm

Lonely Planet Travel Guide - http://www.lonelyplanet.com/india

Ministry of Culture, Government of India - http://www.indiaculture.nic.in/

About Monsoons
The American Museum of Natural History: Moonsoons & Flood- http://earthbulletin.amnh.org/exhibitions/past-exhibitions/climate-change/changing-land/monsoons-and-flood

WeatherQuestions.com's What is a Monsoon - http://www.weatherquestions.com/What_is_a_monsoon.htm

About Berkeley, California
Berkeley Public Library's Berkeley, A City in History - http://www.berkeleypubliclibrary.org/topics/berkeleys-history

A Virtual Tour Throu UC Berkeley's History - http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/CalHistory/

Read-a-Likes:
Bhangra Babes by Narinder Dhami, 2006
Bindi Babes by Narinder Dhami, 2004
Blue Jasmine by Kashmira Sheth, 2004
Bollywood Babes by Narinder Dhami, 2005
Born Confused
by Tanuja Desai Hidier, 2002
Homeless Bird
by Gloria Whelan, 2000
Maya Running by Anjali Banerjee, 2005
Mud Cityby Deborah Ellis, 2003
Refugees by Catherine Stine, 2005
Shiva's Fire by Suzanne Fisher Staples, 2000

NEW BOOKS ABOUT POVERTY AND JUSTICE FOR TEENS from Amazon.com
FICTION
Bucking the Sarge by Christopher Paul Curtis, 2004
Chanda's Secrets
, by Allan Stratton, 2004
Chief Sunrise, John McGraw, and Me, by Timothy Tocher, 2004
Daniel Half Human and the Good Nazi by David Chotkjewitz, 2004
Emako Blue by Brenda Woods, 2004 (2006 RITBA Nominee)
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary Schmidt, 2004
No Laughter Here by Rita Williams-Garcia, 2005
Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood by Benjamin Alire Saenz, 2004
NON-FICTION
A Dream of Freedom: The Civil Rights Movement from 1954 to 1968 by Diane McWhorter, 2004
City of One: Young Writers Speak to the World
by Colette DeDonato (ed.), 2004
Escape from Saigon: How a Vietnam War Orphan Became an American Boy
by Andrea Warren, 2004
Face Relations: Eleven Stories About Seeing Beyond Color
by Marilyn Singer, 2004
It's Your World - If You Don't Like It, Change It: Activism for Teenagers, by Mikki Halpin, 2004
Mongo: Adventures in Trash
by Ted Botha, 2004
Promises to KeepL How Jackie Robinson Changed America by Sharon Robinson, 2004
The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights, by Russell Freedman, 2004
With Courage and Cloth: Winning the Fight for a Woman's Right to Vote by Ann Bausum, 2004

Other Books by the Author:
The Sunita Experiment, 1993
The Not-So Star-Spangled Life of Sunita Sen
, 2005 (Previously released as The Sunita Experiment)
Rickshaw Girl
Asha Means Hope

About the Author:
Mitali Bose Perkins was born in Kolkata, India, and immigrated to the United States with her parents and two older sisters (Sonali, whose name means "gold" in Bangla, and Rupali, whose name means "silver"). The Bose family lived in Cameroun, Ghana, Mexico, and New York City before settling in the San Francisco Bay Area. Mitali, whose name means "friendly," studied Political Science at Stanford University and Public Policy at U.C. Berkeley. She survived the pressures of "life between cultures" and endured academia thanks to a steady diet of books from public libraries - one of America's greatest gifts to new immigrants.

For more information, go to http://www.mitaliperkins.com/

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