Friday, August 15, 2014

The Vine Basket review

The Vine Basket

Book talk:  What would you do if you were not allowed to go to school? Ever since her older brother left, Mehrigul has to accompany father to market and watch the stall while he goes away to gamble and chat with friends.  At home she often has to take control of the household chores while her mother is laid out with headaches.  She misses school, and she misses her brother even more, but at least if she works hard perhaps she can keep her younger sister in school and make a good life for herself.  Mehrigul never thought that she had anything special to offer the world anyway, until an American lady sees a vine basket she made and buys it.  She promises to return in a month and buy any more baskets Merigul can make.  Her father doesn't approve, so she has to hide her basket weaving in between chores.  Then things go from bad to worse when the local authorities realize that she's no longer in school and threaten to send her away to work in a factory.

Rocks my socks:  I had never even heard of the Uyghur people before reading this book, so I was excited to learn about a new culture.  The details of how they have adapted to life in their harsh climate were fascinating, but the reason I love this book so much is Mehrigul.  She is a completely endearing character and is so fully fleshed out that she felt very real to me.  All of her insecurities and guilt over small transgressions are laid bare.  She works so hard to achieve her goals that it is heartbreaking when she encounters set backs.  I enjoyed the descriptions of what it felt like to make the baskets with her own hands from the frustration when something wasn't working out to the pride she felt over the finished product.

Rocks in my socks:   I can be leery of books about an ethnic group written by someone from outside that group, but La Valley really seems to have done her research and was careful to consult Uyghur people as she worked on the novel.  Mostly I am just glad that this story that may have otherwise never been told was written.  The fact that it's an American lady who has to come in and save someone from another culture is a bit troubling, but given the circumstances seems realistic and at least the American only plays a periphery role, helping Mehrigul to make her own life better.

Every book its reader:  I'd give this to anyone looking for a contemporary novel set in another culture or those looking for a heartwarming story of a girl overcoming difficult odds.  The conditions Mehrigul live in are harsh but there's no graphic violence and no romance.  I'd say it's fine for 5th grade and up.


Josanne La Valley has a website with more information about herself, the book, and the Uyghur people:

Readers might enjoy this video of Uyghur artisans at work:

Source: school library

The Vine Basket by Josanne La Valley: buy it or check it out today!

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