January 30, 2011 by Writing for Children
Filed under Book Reviews
Reviewed by Suzanne Lieurance
Author Jewel Kats takes the sensitive subject of child sexual abuse and turns it into a captivating, yet gentle cautionary tale from Loving Healing Press called Reena’s Bollywood Dream.
Eight-year old Reena lives in the United States with her parents and grandparents who came to the U.S. long ago from India. Although Reena is an American girl, she longs to be a Bollywood star. But her parents don’t share her dreams.
Her mother tells her, “Nice Indian girls – and that’s who you are – don’t grow up to become actresses.”
Her father reminds her she is from a family of doctors and she should be following in their footsteps, “not the dance steps of some silly actress.”
But one day Uncle Jessi arrives from India. He has been pen pals with Reena for a long time, so he knows all about her dreams to become an actress. Reena is delighted when Uncle Jessi presents her with a gift – a DVD of a Bollywood movie. At last someone in the family truly understands how desperately she wants to become a Bollywood star.
Uncle Jessi plans a secret surprise for Reena one day when he and Reena are home alone together. There is a gift wrapped box for Reena under Uncle Jessi’s bed. Inside the box is a beautiful costume, “fancy enough for an Indian actress!” gushes Reena. She quickly tries it on and Uncle Jessi invites her to dance for him while he records it all with his video camera. Reena enjoys dancing for him at first. Then Uncle Jessi suggests something that makes Reena feel quite uncomfortable. What happens next will surprise readers just as much as it does Reena and Uncle Jessi.
The author does a remarkable job of weaving in details that explain how sexual predators (who are often times family members children know and love) gain the confidence and trust of their young victims. Yet, she does so in a way that won’t scare young readers. There are no graphic details, just an engaging story with a main character young girls (and even young boys to some degree) and identify with, root for, and learn from.
Colorful, lively illustrations by Richa Kinra enhance the text and help depict both the rich Indian culture and the Bollywood scene. This is an important book for parents of young children to read together and talk about. It can help make children aware of potentially dangerous situations and how to avoid them. It can also help children who have already been victims of sexual abuse realize that the abuse is never their fault.
Reena’s Bollywood Dream
Title: Reena’s Bollywood Dream
Author: Jewel Kats
Illustrator: Richa Kinra
Publisher: Loving Healing Press (August 17, 2010)
Tags: book reviews, child sexual abuse, Jewel Kats, Loving Healing Press, picture book, Richa Kintra