Book Review: Small Acts of Amazing Courage by Gloria Whelan


Small Acts of Amazing Courage by Gloria Whelan

Rosalind is not a normal British child living in India in 1918.  The other girls her age are shipped back to England for boarding school or spend their days at the club flirting covertly with young English soldiers and swimming in the pool.  Rosalind has never been to England, her mother refused to send her to boarding school because her older brother died in England while at school.  Rosalind doesn’t identify with the other English girls.  Instead her best friend is the daughter of one of the Indian servants and together they make illicit visits to the bazaar.  When Rosalind’s father returns from World War I, he brings with him stricter rules than Rosalind has been living under.  He disapproves of her friendships, forbids her going to the bazaar, and objects to her interest in Gandhi and his politics.  Rosalind’s world changes just as India begins to seek its independence from the British in this fascinating historical novel.

Rosalind is a great protagonist.  She is at odds with her English world, yet it is never pushed so far that her reactions and attitude loses touch with the historical setting.  She is strong, vibrant and a great lens to see India through because she is a bridge between modern readers and World War I.

Whelan creates her world with tiny touches, drawing India for readers in the details.  Her imagery is lovely, emphasizing the impermanence, the beauty, and the restlessness of the story. Yet the story does not drag at all.  This is historical fiction that is relevant, vital and interesting.  The pacing is beautifully done, offering the languid pace of an India heat wave, the time it took to travel at that time, and the desperation of a people.

I am hopeful that we will read more of Rosalind’s story in an upcoming book.  I look forward to seeing where Whelan will take readers next.  Perfect for middle school readers who will enjoy the engaging heroine and the touch of romance.  Appropriate for readers age 10-13.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

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