I loved, loved, loved Uma Krishnaswami’s 2011 MG novel The Grand Plan to Fix Everything, and so I was delighted to receive the sequel, The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic (Atheneum Books, 2013). TGPtFE had eleven-year-old Dini Kumaran moving from Maryland to Swapnagiri, a small town in South India, where she met her favourite Bollywood star, Dolly Singh. In true Bollywood style, Dini proceeded to give Dolly’s romance a happy ending, and fix everyone else’s issues along the way.
In TPwBSH, Dini and her bestie Maddie are all set to welcome Dolly Singh to America for the premiere of Dolly’s new film, Where is Sunny Villa? The opening, to be held at the Smithsonian, will be decorous but fun, featuring a dance by Dini and Maddie, light refreshments, and two showings of the film. But Dolly Singh has a way of upending the best-laid plans of the Smithsonian. She wants an elephant, and a special cake at the event. She wants a rose petal milkshake fountain. Dolly is amazing and magical and beautiful and charming, but perhaps a little bit oblivious to the effect of her demands on the people around. And just how are Dini and Maddie supposed to get it all together for the opening? For Dini is now a bit older and wiser, and knows there’s a problem with being slightly heroic.
TPwBSH, featuring a cast of thousands! twitter intrigues! plot twists galore! has all the charm and warm-heartedness of its predecessor. While the book touches on several deep themes, Krishnaswami never loses her lightness of touch, and the overall reading experience is hugely enjoyable. And Dini’s world is (again) one of my favourite fictional places, ever. Even when things go pear-shaped, teetering on the edge of disaster, small miracles keep occurring in the background, reminding us we live in a benevolent universe. Love blooms between an unlikely couple. A friendship quietly expands to include a third. An email to the White House gets a considered response. Parents are sensible and caring, knowing when to indulge a whim and when to stand their ground. No-one is self conscious about dancing in public. People are heroic if given the chance. Oh, and Krishnaswami’s America is the land of possibility, a melting pot on a gentle simmer where Albanian chefs and Bangladeshi taxi-drivers find common ground in Bollywood surreality. Wow. In sum, the Dini books make you feel as though you’ve downed a vat of Felix Felicis–all is right with the world, and hey! you can change the bits that aren’t. Read this and beam.