Bipathu and a Very Big Dream is heartwarming, lovely, and fun middle-grade fiction with Cerebral Palsy representation and many layers that show a glimpse of Indian village life.
Bipathu and a Very Big Dream by Anita Nair
Publication Date : June 25, 2023
Publisher : Puffin
Read Date : June 25, 2023
Genre : Children’s fiction (9+)
Pages : 216
Disclaimer – Mnay thanks to the publisher for the review copy.
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When school reopens in the village of Kaikurussi after the pandemic lockdown nine-year-old Bipathu makes new friends-Madama a blind lady who has moved to the village, Maash, a neighbour, Rahul, a boy who loves football as much as she does, and Duggu, a rescued puppy. When Madama gifts Bipathu’s brother Saad a special needs child a pair of braces Bipathu starts believing in the power of the universe. So when Suleiman the class bully roughs up Rahul to prevent him from training for the football match selections Bipathu looks to the universe for help. While Bipathu and Saad along with Duggu help Rahul ace up his game will her own dream of playing football ever come true?
middle-grade fiction with Cerebral Palsy representation
Bipathu and a Very Big Dream is lovely middle-grade fiction about a nine-year-old poor Muslim girl, Bipathu, who has only three love – football, her big brother, Saad, and Hrithik Roshan and every day she dreams about all of them playing football. When village school opens once again after the pandemic and the Math teacher announces to start of a football training camp for district selection trial, her dreams come true, not literally but close to.
Writing is lucid, engaging and fun. The story is written in the third person narrative from Bipathu’s perspective. Her voice is fresh and relatable to kids of her age.
Bipathu is compassionate, caring, and strong girl who stands up for the people she loves and cares about. I loved how this little girl viewed the world, questioned what she didn’t understand, voiced logic, and never abandoned her responsibilities.
The girl who should be playing, have friends, spend time on the ground running and laughing was burdened with family responsibility as she was poor and her mother has to bear the financial responsibility to feed three kids after her father’s death. She attended madrasa (Muslim school), school, took care of her big brother, Saad, who is afflicted with Cerebral Palsy, did household chores, and she dropped the practice at football camp so she could be at home while her mother took a sewing class. She still managed to find time to help her blind neighbour whom they all called Madam. She is doing a lot for her age and deserved to live her dream.
I loved how she stood up to the class bully and did everything she could to help her friend Rahul who was afraid of the class bully. It saddened me to see their parents didn’t help them with the problem and they found they cannot share the school bully issue with them due to their own reasons and had to look for solutions on their own and ask for the help of their neighbors than their parents. It was great to see her stand up for Saad as well. I wish her mother could understand her better but at the same time, I could see she had a lot on her plate and she was trying her best.
Bipathu not just learned to never stop dreaming but started believing in the universe, how if she really wished for something the universe will help her and make things happen. She also made people around her believe in the universe too.
Bipathu’s elder friends were amazing. Madam is my favorite. I don’t get how exactly she lost her vision as I don’t think it’s because of old age but still this eccentric city woman was a godsend to Bipathu. At first, she looked sad and lonely but we see how being with Bipathu and then meeting Maash made her happy and social, and started to look at the world more positively. She not just understood and listen to Bipathu but encouraged her to dream and imagine. She also helped her brother and also with her problem with the school bully and how to control her emotions around annoying people. Maash is also fun and caring.
What I loved most about friendship with her elder neighbor is how Bipathu never felt she was missing out on anything by spending time with her neighbors and her family nor she envied other kids but could see what other kids were missing out by staying at home watching TV and playing on the phone.
The author subtly covered many layers in this small lovely story. The representation of Cerebral Palsy and lack of understanding about it among people and their ignorant behaviors is well written. I could see how difficult it might be for poor families to provide for special needs of kids with Cerebral Palsy, especially in villages that are far from the city.
Gender stereotype is highlighted throughout the book. It is sad to see people still keep telling girls what to do and how to behave, being kept home and taught household chores while refused to play games out on the ground saying ‘it’s boys’ game and it’s inappropriate for girls to run and play their games’. It’s not just family but religion and its leaders also ingrain concepts of gender inequality in kids at such a young age which is very archaic in this modern time.
Economic inequality and position in society is also hinted at throughout the book. It was sad to see Bipathu and her family suffer because of their poor condition while the class bully who hails from a well-known family could get away with his misbehavior and mistreatment towards other kids. There is also a hint of religious differences.
Even with many serious layers, there are many light and heartwarming moments in the story that would make kids and adults smile and laugh. I also enjoyed little facts in the book about football and Indian football player. I don’t know Malayalam so it was fun to learn basic Malayalam words.
I loved Massh’s idea to solve Bipathu and her friend’s problems with football practice and how he came up with all the arrangements for it. End is lovely and uplifting.
Why 4 stars –
While I could google Malayam words, kids might find it hard to pronounce them and also would need an adult’s help. I think a footnote explaining the words would have helped.
Overall, Bipathu and a Very Big Dream is heartwarming, lovely, and fun middle-grade fiction with Cerebral Palsy representation and many layers that show a glimpse of Indian village life.
I recommend this if you like,
Muslim main character
Cerebral Palsy representation
Theme of Gender stereotypes,
Layers of Economic Disparity, Bullying, and Friendship
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