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2020 South Asia Book Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature

June 9, 2020

2020 Award Winners

Priya Dreams of Marigolds and Masala by Meenal Patel (Beaver’s Pond Press, 2019). Priya asks her beloved Babi Ba, “What is India like?” as they stand side-by-side preparing the evening meal. Babi Ba tells Priya of her India – the sights, sounds, and smells. And, Priya, in return, discovers how to bring India to her Babi Ba. (Grades K-2)

The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2019). Runaway sisters Viji and Rukku learn the harsh realities of life on the swarming streets of Chennai, India. They find shelter and friendship with Muthi and Arul, two homeless boys living under an abandoned bridge. Forming a family, the four use their instincts and tenacity to survive in a perilous, indifferent world. (Grades 4-6)

Forward Me Back to You by Mitali Perkins (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2019). Robin, Kat and Gracie travel to Kolkata, India with their church group to help girls who have been rescued from trafficking, but find that they are the ones whose lives are changed. (Grades 9 and up)


2020 Honor Books

The Jungle Radio: Bird Songs of India by Devangana Dash (Puffin Books, 2019). Delve into an adventure of delightfully woven onomatopoeia, rhyming verse and ornate explosions of color with inquisitive Gul as she explores the sprawling habitat of her Indian jungle searching for the aerial musicians of the symphonic sounds emanating from her radio in a beautiful compilation introducing children to bird-watching. (Grades K-5)

Stories for South Asian Supergirls by Raj Kaur Khaira (Kashi House, 2019). This inspiring illustrated biography compilation truly is “a treasure trove” of fifty important, influential South Asian women from all walks of life – from all parts of the globe. Beyond mirrors, it offers our young girls maps to who and what they can become. (Grades 3-8)

Across the Line by Nayanika Mahtani (Penguin Books India, 2019). Toshi and her six-year-old brother Tarlok are separated during the violent riots following partition in India which divided the country as well as families, creating profound loss. Sixty years later, the discovery of a diary offers insight while a chance meeting provides healing and understanding. (Grades 6 and up)

2020 Highly Commended Books

The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh by Supriya Kelkar; illustrated by Alea Marley (Sterling Children’s Books, 2019). Harpreet Singh is a practicing Sikh and adores colors. He has a different colored patka, or head covering, for every occasion. But, when his family moves to a new city, everything feels grey. Will he find a way to make life vibrant again? (Grades Pre-K-2)

Thukpa For All by Praba Ram & Sheela Preuitt; illustrated by Shilpa Ranade (Karadi Tales Company, 2019). Set in Ladakh, this story is about a young blind boy who lives with his grandmother. It delivers the message that specially-abled persons are no different from others and in fact suggests that they have different capabilities. It also introduces the reader to the culture of the people of Ladakh and demonstrates the importance of community. (Grades K-3)

The Clever Tailor by Srividhya Venkat and illustrated by Nayantara Surendranath (Karadi Tales, 2019). In this colorful tale, talented tailor, Rupa Ram, finds creative ways to reuse the cloth of his old turban, finally weaving an engaging kahaani, or story, which will leave children and adults alike with a smile on their faces. (Grades Pre-K-1)

A Circle of Elephants by Eric Dinerstein (Hyperion Books for Children, 2019). The youngest elephant driver in the Nepalese Borderlands, thirteen year-old Nandu, faces challenges from both nature and poachers with the help of family, friends, and his bull elephant Hira Prasad, while learning the rhythm of the jungle and compassion for its animals. A companion novel to What Elephants Know. (Grades 4-8)

Lakshmibai: A Graphic Biography by Jason Quinn; illustrated by Naresh Kumar (Campfire, 2019). Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi, broke from patriarchy to lead her citizens in an arduous fight against the British. Her story is an important part of the story of India’s uprising beginning in 1857, eventually leading to independence. This brilliantly illustrated retelling introduces readers to a female hero for all times. (Grades 7 and up)

The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan (Scholastic, 2019). Rukhsana Ali is in love with her girlfriend Ariana. As a Muslim, Bangladeshi-American daughter, Rukhsana wants to preserve her parents’ honor by hiding her relationship for at least a few more months until she leaves home for Caltech. But, unfortunately, it is hard to keep love a secret. (Grades 9 and up)

The 2020 South Asia Book Award winners and honorees will be available for book signings at the NCTE Annual Convention in Denver, Colorado, November 19–22, 2020.


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