We're in a Book Club: Let's Read "Bravo, Anjali!"
You're officially invited to join CAMP’s book club — crafts and cool stories included. This week we’re reading "Bravo, Anjali" by Jessica Love and making merfolk masterpieces.
Margo Gothelf and Sarah Burns
Can’t make it to your friendly neighborhood CAMP store for storytime? We’ve got you covered! We’re in a Book Club lets you follow along with our favorite storytellers right at home, with a book guide, discussion questions, activities, and crafts inspired by CAMP storytimes. And don’t worry about getting all the reading done in advance — it’s not that kind of book club.
This week, we're reading "Bravo, Anjali!" by Sheetal Sheth
For Anjali, playing the tabla is something that comes naturally. She loves the feel of the drum beneath her fingers and getting lost in the music....
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So, What’s This Book About?
Mango and Marigold Press
Anjali loves to play the tabla. It doesn’t matter to her that she is the only girl in her class or that the musical instrument is typically played by men. When her fingers hit the top of the hand drum, she can’t help but get lost in the moment and let the music take over. But as much as she wants to celebrate her natural talent, she holds back, nervous about what others in her class will think.
Anjali really wants to perform a solo on stage at the upcoming recital — but knows it will put her in a tough position. As she practices and gets better and better at the tabla, her classmates seem to get meaner, teasing her about her musical talent.
One day at school, Anjali reaches her limit. Her classmate and longtime friend, Deepak, picks himself as the leader of a group project (which she'd hoped to take charge of), while speaking badly about Anjali to her friends.
Upset and angry, Anjali retreats to the school bathroom, where an older classmate offers some advice: She tells Anjali to “never dim her light.” This simple advice is exactly what Anjali needs to hear — and sets her on a path to be her very best.
At her music recital, Anjali overcomes her nervousness by remembering the first time she played the tabla, and how good it made her feel. She decides she won't let anyone make her feel bad for being good at something — especially something she loves.
On stage, she plays her heart out and wows the crowd, who give her a standing ovation for her brilliant performance! Afterward, Anjali celebrates with her classmates and even gets a special congratulations — and apology — from Deepak.
But the congratulations that really mean the most to Anjali come from a young girl in the audience — who was blown away by a girl playing the tabla. Anjali proudly tells her, “We can do anything we want, little one. Anything at all!”
A Conversation With Author Sheetal Sheth
Author Sheetal Sheth shared more about her journey to becoming an author, the amazing illustrations from the book, and if we can expect to see more adventures with Anjali — read on for highlights of our interview!
CAMP: What inspired you to become a children's book author?
Sheetal Sheth: I’ve worked with children my whole life, and as an actress/producer, I love telling stories! When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I noticed a lack of representation of children who looked like me and my family in children's literature. I would go into bookstores and see books separated by section — "this is the ethnic section, this is the LGBTQ section," and so on. I found most books were the same few narratives — stories about religion or holidays, not brown kids just living life. I feel like we’re never going to feel like we are part of the fabric of the mainstream until there are as many stories about us and our pets too! We also have dinner with our parents and play instruments and go to school. I really wanted to write about real, slice-of-life experiences.
CAMP: Where did the idea for Bravo, Anjali come from?
Sheetal Sheth: I wrote Bravo Anjali! during the height of the #MeToo movement, after the 2016 election. I was disturbed by the way women and girls were treated, and how we were discussed and portrayed in the media, and I decided I wanted to tackle this issue, but in "kid talk." How could I bring this conversation to our kids? It’s abundantly clear we need to be having these conversations with our children. Young. It’s the only way we will see long-lasting change. So in this book, Anjali plays the tabla, a traditionally male-dominated instrument. And she’s the only girl in her class, and she’s the best. The boys don't like it. And so the story begins...
CAMP: The advice Anjali receives to "never dim your own light" is very powerful, especially for kids. What do you hope young readers will take away from the simple phrase?
Sheetal Sheth: I want all our littles (and all of us!) to know they have a light inside of them that only they have. With all the great things that make them, them. We love seeing your light. We feel it when we see you. I don’t want anyone to feel like they should ever make that light a little bit less bright. Stand in your power!
CAMP: Lucia Soto's illustrations are so vibrant and expressive. How did you come to work together?
Sheetal Sheth: I happened to read a book where she had done the illustrations and I loved her work immediately and pointed out her work to my publisher. When we spoke to Lucia and when we saw her samples, we knew she was the one. Her talent and insight have made the series really shine and she is wonderful to collaborate with.
CAMP: What's the most exciting thing about sharing Anjali with young readers?
Sheetal Sheth: Hearing from the readers, parents, and teachers! It has been wonderfully gratifying to hear how much impact the books are having in kids' lives and also in allowing for safe conversations that are vital but many don't know how to approach. I love when I get videos of the kids reading and acting out different parts of the book!
CAMP: What does the future hold for Anjali? Can we expect to see more of her adventures?
Sheetal Sheth: Yes! The third book in the series will be out next year and I promise much more from the Anjali universe!
CAMP: What's your favorite children's book to read right now?
Sheetal Sheth: That's so tough as we have many on rotation and love discovering new ones. But some of our recent faves are I Walk with Vanessa, Alma's Art, Annie's Plaid Shirt, and My Favorite Book in the Whole Wide World.
Let’s Chat → Book Discussion Questions
Love the book as much as we do? Want to chat about it? Well, you’re in luck! These discussion questions will help you get the conversation going and understand the book in a whole new way.
Anjali sticks out in her tabla class no matter what she does. As the only girl, she feels like she should hold back her talent in order to fit in. Have you ever felt out of place and felt the need to hold back? How did you figure out how to be your true self in that situation?
Anjali’s classmates are jealous of how good she is on the tabla, especially her good friend Deepak. Have you ever felt like you were the best at something and people were jealous? How have you dealt with jealousy? How do you think Deepak should have handled his jealousy?
When Anjali sets up her tabla to play at home, her Henna auntie assumes that someone else is going to come and play the instrument. Why does Henna auntie assume that? Have you ever been underestimated for something that you can do really well? Do you ever go against the odds and try a new hobby or activity that is typically associated with other people?
Without even knowing it, Anjali inspires a little girl from her tabla performance. Simply by breaking gender stereotypes, Anjali shows this young girl she can do whatever she puts her mind to. Who inspires you to break boundaries?
Lucia Soto’s illustrations pay close attention to detail and do a strong job of expressing the emotions on the character’s faces. Which one is your favorite drawing and why? Pick one and share what kind of emotion you think is being expressed on that page.
In the bathroom, Anjali gets the advice to “never dim your light.” What do you think that means? How do you keep your light shining bright?
Bring the Book to Life
Want to play the tabla just like Anjali? With the help of a recycled water bottle and a few basic craft supplies, you easily can. Follow along with this tutorial and watch the miniature drum come to life. When it comes to decorating the tabla, the design is up to you! Make it match Anjali’s and match the colors and design from the story. Want to make it your own? Mix and match your favorite colors and patterns to customize your instrument. When it’s all dry, let your fingers go to work and see if you can move them just like Anjali does.
Want to spend more time with Anjali? Us too! Check out her first adventure in Always Anjali.