The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani [in School Library Journal]
On her 12th birthday, Nisha receives her first diary from Kazi, the family’s cook, presented with prescient words: “he said it was time to start writing things down … someone needs to make a record of the things that will happen because the grown-ups will be too busy.”
In 1947, the Partition of India brings independence from British rule but cleaves a nation into Pakistan and India. The divisions along religious lines make little sense to Nisha: her father and grandmother are Hindu, her late mother was Muslim, and Kazi is Muslim. When the family is forced to flee from what becomes Pakistan to “the new India,” beloved Kazi must stay behind. Facing a complicated future not of her making, Nisha observes, “It’s one thing to understand facts and another thing to understand why those facts are facts.”
With pitch-perfect youthful delivery, Priya Ayyar is an ideal narrator for Nisha’s evolution from reluctant and reticent to bold and brave. The addition of Hiranandani’s (The Whole Story of Half a Girl) reading of her author’s note – in which she reveals her father’s family’s 1947 exodus along Nisha’s family’s route from Mirpur Khas to Jodhpur – proves especially gratifying.
Verdict: Recommended for all libraries serving middle grade listeners.
Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult