Winner of the Times Children's Fiction Prize in 2017, 'Asha and the Spirit' is a wonderful and enchanting debut by Jasbinder Bilan. It deserves all the accolades it gets and should be used by every teacher in primary schools for topics on India.
From the foothills of the Himalayas to Zandapur, Asha takes a spellbinding journey in search of her father. With the help of her best friend, Jeevan, and watched over by the spirit bird of her grandmother, Asha's journey will test her resolve at every stage.
This was such a delight to read. I was utterly transported to India and swept off on the adventure. Bilan's descriptions are beautifully vivid without ever sacrificing the pace. There is a beating heart throughout the story and a sense of myth and age that made me think of Indian epics like Rama and Sita. There is also just enough magic and wonder while making the dangers raw and real. Having travelled across India for two months when I was a teenager I felt I was back there. Bilan brilliantly captures the atmosphere, busyness and spiritualism of India. And Asha is just such a well-realized, brave and resilient personality to guide us along the journey.
This fantastic book needs all the exposure it can get. I can't wait to see what Jasbinder Bilan might write next. Please write about India again!