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2019 South Asia Book Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature

May 17, 2019

2019 Award Winners

The Secret Kingdom: Nek Chand, a Changing India, and a Hidden World of Art by Barb Rosenstock; illustrated by Claire A. Nivola (Candlewick Press, 2018). In 1947, Nek Chand began building a Rock Garden in Chandigarh, India, using natural and discarded manmade materials, including broken glass, porcelain from chipped sinks, old bicycles and rusty pipes.  Readers will learn of Chand’s marvelous creations in this picture book biography with detailed illustrations and a gatefold photograph. (Grades 2-5)

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2018). Twelve-year old Amal aspires to be a teacher in Pakistan. After unintentionally insulting a member of her village’s ruling family, that dream is sunk. As punishment, Amal is forced to leave her distraught family behind and work as an indentured servant at the Khan estate. Discovering their corruptness, Amal summons her courage and intellect to secure justice and freedom. (Grades 5-8)

2019 Honor Books

Iqbal and His Ingenious Idea by Elizabeth Suneby; illustrated by Rebecca Green (Kids Can Press, 2018). What would it be like to use a broken umbrella to win a school science fair?  Watch Iqbal help his family find a way to cook their food without using an open fire at their home in Bangladesh.  Hear the monsoon rain, the wind, and baby Rupa’s cough from breathing the smoke from the fire.  Use the glossary and the do-it-yourself activity, too!  (Grades 3-7)

The Eleventh Trade by Alyssa Hollingsworth (Roaring Brook Press, 2018). Sami’s grandfather’s rebab, an Afghan instrument, is stolen while it’s in Sami’s care. Since it’s necessary for their livelihood, the boy must figure out how to buy it back from the shop where it was pawned.  He begins by making trades with fellow students, but will that be enough to get the instrument back? (Grades 5-8)

The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani (Dial Books, 2018). Twelve-year old Nisha is forced to escape her home in 1947 with her Hindu family during the partition of India. Trying to make sense of the world during this treacherous moment in history, she writes letters to her Muslim mother in her journal, who died in childbirth. (Grades 5-8)

2019 Highly Commended Books

Farmer Falgu Goes to Kumbh Mela by Chitra Soundar, illustrations by Kanika Nair (Karadi Tales, 2018). Farmer Falgu is excited to see the sadhus and elephant processions and savor sweet treats like jalebi and lassi. But he has surprises in store for him, and his kindness to others is rewarded in the end. (Grades PreK-1)

I Need to Pee by Neha Singh; illustrated by Meenal Singh and Erik Egerup (Puffin Books, 2018). Where do you go when you just have to go? Sahi, a little girl who loves to drink all types of things, finds out as she travels from Mumbai to visit her aunt’s house in Assam.  (Grades 3-5)

Machher Jhol by Richa Jha, illustrations by Sumanta Dey (Pickle Yolk Books, 2018). Gopu finds courage as he travels through the bustling crowds, the market, and traffic of Calcutta, to gather ingredients for his grandma to cook his father’s favorite dish—fish curry (machher jhol). The illustrations invite the reader to travel along with Gopu, and hope that the special dish is just the medicine Gopu’s father needs to feel well again. (Grades K-5)

Room in Your Heart by Kunzang Choden; illustrated by Pema Tshering (KitaabWorld, 2018). An old woman who lives in a tiny house in the mountains is hailed by many travelers who ask “Is there room for me?”  Her secret for fitting so many visitors into her small home is the heart-warming message of this Bhutanese folktale. (Grades K-3)

The 2019 South Asia Book Award winners and honorees will be available for book signings at the NCTE Annual Convention in Baltimore, November 21-23, 2019.


The South Asia National Outreach Consortium (SANOC) is the sponsor of the South Asia Book Award

SANOC’s mission is to enhance K-16 Outreach Programming by building a stronger network and collaboration among the South Asia National Resource Centers, and institutions with South Asia programming, across the United States. The SANOC initiative started in 2003 and was formally established in 2009 to address the NRC Invitational Priority 1 for the 2010-2013 grant cycles, which encourages collaborative programs among the Title VI centers. We also look to partner with other institutions of higher learning. The national network will work to share information and resources on South Asia, incorporating South Asia content into school curricula, and promoting the resources, workshops, conferences, and educational programs at the South Asia centers.

SANOC Member Centers

South Asia Institute, Columbia University
South Asia Program, Cornell University
South Asia Center, Syracuse University

Center for South Asia Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
South Asia Studies, University of Pennsylvania
South Asia Institute, University of Texas at Austin
South Asia Center, University of Washington
Center for South Asia, University of Wisconsin – Madison
Asian Studies Center, Michigan State University

South Asia Center

Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies
University of Washington
Box 353650
Seattle WA, 98195-3650