cover image Lion of the Sky

Lion of the Sky

Ritu Hemnani. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $19.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-0632-8448-7

Drawing from family history, Hemnani delivers a wrenching historical verse debut that traces the eagerly anticipated end of British rule in India and the subsequent conflicts between Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh populations during the 1947 Partition, which forced millions to relocate. In his hometown of Sindh, 12-year-old Hindu Raj flies “through the fields.../ of wildflowers and birdsong,” guiding his kite “in the endless blue,/ free and wild/ as it/ fights/ and/ snaps.” Raj’s carefree frolicking disappoints his father Baba, who favors Raj’s sister Maya and compares him to his brother Vijay. Acceptance comes from Raj’s Muslim best friend Iqbal. When the Partition begins, violence erupts across India, but Baba hopes that “the madness/ won’t spread to us.” Yet Raj watches powerless as Iqbal’s home is burned (“When he sees me.../ his eyes never looked/ so cold”) and Raj and his family are forced to flee to Bombay, where they face myriad injustices as religious refugees. Raj experiences agonizing losses throughout, which are rendered in Hemnani’s aching verse. Compelling stakes ratchet up the tension in this illuminating and harrowing story about displacement, grief, and hope. Ages 8–12. (May)