In Andal's House

As a young boy in Gujarat, India, Kumar sometimes feels like he lives in two worlds. First there is the old world where people and their choices are determined by prejudice and bigotry. But then there is the second, modern world: in this world Kumar can be friends with whomever he chooses and his future looks bright. As part of the annual Diwali celebration, Kumar is invited to the house of his classmate Andal to watch fireworks. Andal is from a high-caste Brahmin family so Kumar is especially pleased to be included. But there in Andal's house, Kumar's two worlds collide in a very unpleasant way. Instead of being welcomed as a guest, Kumar is sent away, forbidden to join the festivities. Angry and hurt, Kumar is left questioning his place in Indian society. Where does he fit in? To which world does he really belong?

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Interest Level Grade 2 - Grade 5
Reading Level Grade 5
Dewey F
ATOS Reading Level 4.4
Guided Reading Level
Language English
Publisher Sleeping Bear Press
Available Formats Hardcover (9781585366033), PDF (9781627530040), Hosted ebook (9781627536028)
Copyright 2013, 2014
Number of Pages 40
Dimensions 9 x 11
Graphics Full-color illustrations
  • Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, Winner, 2014
  • 2014 Story Telling World Resource Award - Pre-Adolescent Listeners, Commended, 2014
  • 2014 Bank Street Best Books of the Year for Children, Winner, 2014
  • South Aisa Book Award for Children and Young Adult Literature, Commended, 2014

Books to Borrow...Books to Buy Reviews "In Andal's House"

One of several titles in the Sleeping Bear Press series, Tales of the World, this thoughtful selection introduces children to current-day culture in India.

Young Kumar feels as though he lives in two worlds: the old India where people lived according to their caste, and the new world where laws have abolished that caste discrimination and bigotry. Upon being invited to his friend’s house to watch fireworks, Kumar is especially pleased to be included since his friend is from a high-caste Brahmin family. But when Kumar arrives, his friend’s grandmother abruptly sends him away. Insulted and angry, Kumar returns home to the fortunate and wise words of his grandfather.

A sensitive and accurate portrayal of some of the social struggles that take place in India today, this choice is ultimately one of hope.

School Library Journal Reviews "In Andal's House"

In this introduction to the Hindu caste system, Kumar is invited to his friend Andal’s house to watch the fireworks for the celebration of Diwali. Andal is high-caste Brahmin, and his family is very wealthy. Kumar’s family had been outcasts and are concerned about the visit. Kumar is the best student in his class and believes that is why Andal invited him. When he arrives at his friend’s large home, he is met by Andal’s grandmother, who tells him, “we cannot have a boy of no caste in our home. It would never do.” Kumar returns home to his grandfather, who explains how things used to be and that at least now there are laws against discrimination that make everyone equal. He reminds his grandson that it wasn’t Andal who turned him away. The story ends with Kumar feeling hopeful about his future as he dreams of the Diwali lamps lighting up the darkness. This picture book has vibrant and colorful artwork. It will have a place in collections that want to show how discrimination of any kind adversely affects young people. Readers will also see in Kumar the power of perseverance.

Booklist Reviews "In Andal's House"

Why would a little boy be invited to a classmate’s house to watch the Diwali fireworks only to be cruelly sent away by his friend’s grandmother? In this solemn but hopeful tale of one boy’s sad experience, readers will learn that lightness and darkness exist within all of us. Kumar is turned away from Andal’s house because he is a Dalit and Andal is a high-caste Brahmin, and according to ancient caste norms, the two do not mingle. The event provides an opportunity for Kumar to put his despair into perspective and learn that India is changing. Readers might recognize similarities between the Indian caste system and racial segregation in the U.S., as Grandfather describes the activism that spurred legal changes ensuring that “under the law . . . we are all equal.” Hall’s illustrations echo traditional Indian folk art, while Whelan deftly explains that the persistence of the caste system is mostly because of older individuals who won’t change. This book raises big questions about society and its norms that will challenge readers’ intellectual curiosity. Reviews "In Andal's House"

“In Andal’s House” by Gloria Whelan is a book that can be read with two different outcomes. It’s a story about class, or caste, as it’s called in India.

The tale begins in Kumar’s house where his family is eating dinner. If the difference in clothing that is vibrantly illustrated on the page doesn’t give away that this takes place in a different culture, the dinner consisting of dal and mango pickles will. The holiday Diwali means that there will be fireworks later, and Kumar has been invited to see the fireworks at a fellow student’s house.

Kumar’s mother asks him if he is sure he was invited to the house of his friend, Andal. Kumar assures her that although the family is high-caste Brahmin, Andal is not stuck-up. He is friends with many other students. Kumar is happy that he was one of the students invited even though his family doesn’t have much money.

Throughout the story, there are many clues about how life in India is different from life here in the United States. Kumar lights oil in clay pots along the path to their house. He feels guilty because his sister, a talented artist, is working to make money so Kumar can go to school instead of studying art the way she would like.

Kumar knows three languages (most of us know at most two). He hopes to get a scholarship so that Anika can go to school or save the money for a dowry. On the walk to his friend’s house, readers learn that the monsoon rains are gone (it’s November). The bright colorful illustrations by Amanda Hall show a town illuminated by fireworks and lamps with people out and about in bright clothing.

Standing outside Andal’s huge house, Kumar realizes that he’s never been in a high-caste Brahmin’s home. His family have no caste and were once called “Untouchables.” When he enters the house, Kumar painfully learns that caste still matters when Andal’s grandmother refuses to allow him to see his friends, telling him that they “cannot have a boy of no caste” in their home.

The holiday is ruined for Kumar. At home, his family is out watching the fireworks, and only his grandfather is still there. When Kumal tells him bitterly that nothing has changed, his grandfather disagrees. He tells Kumar about growing up and how horribly he was treated.

The only job he could get was street sweeper. He had to shout so that people had time to get out of his way; even his shadow was considered unclean. They called him “dirty dog,” and if his shadow fell on someone that person had to take a bath. He was not allowed to get water from the well but had to beg water from others. They would only give him water from a clay cup which was then broken. He couldn’t go into stores or go to school.

Now, his grandfather explains, things are different. In Andal’s house there is the old, the grandmother, who will always consider Kumar’s family untouchable, but there is also the new, Andal, who wants to include others regardless of caste. And Andal is the future, which is also Kumar’s future.

Teachers from second grade through fourth can use this book to teach students how to find clues in text. Common Core Standards require deeper and closer analysis of text, and this story provides lots of material for thought and for analysis. Although this is fiction, there is a plethora of information about India and its customs, food, dress and holidays.

Students studying other countries could compare and contrast the culture described in this book with others. This is a text which can be read and re-read by students seeking more and more information from the story about the Indian culture.

Author: Gloria Whelan

Gloria Whelan is a poet and the award-winning author of many children's books including Homeless Bird, for which she received the National Book Award. The Listeners is her third title in the Tales of Young Americans series. Her other picture books with Sleeping Bear Press include Yuki and the One Thousand Carriers (2008 Society of Illustrators Gold Medal winner); Yatandou (a Junior Library Guild selection); and Friend on Freedom River (a Jefferson Cup honor book). Ms. Whelan lives near Lake St. Clair in Michigan where you can often find her out walking.

Illustrator: Amanda Hall

Amanda Hall studied graphic art and illustration at Cambridge School of Art - now Anglia Ruskin University, England. Brimming with color, decoration and fantasy creatures, her pictures have mostly been created by a technique that combines pencil crayon and watercolor ink, although she is now working in other media too, such as acrylic and gouache paints.

The inspiration for Amanda’s work comes from cultures all over the world, including the roots of myths, legends and fairy tales which are part of the powerful historical inheritance of North and South America, Europe, Africa and India.

Amanda’s illustrated books include: The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau, Tales from India and The Barefoot Book of Animal Tales. In Andal’s House is her first book for Sleeping Bear Press.

Like many illustrators, Amanda works in a timber shed, The Shadowhouse, at the bottom of her magical secret garden. She likes cats, curious aardvarks and big cups of tea, though not always in that order.