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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
White Bungalow (The)
by Aimee Sommerfelt
Age Range: 9-11
White Bungalow is the sequel to The Road to Agra, where thirteen-year-old Lalu took his younger sister Maya from Katawa to Agra in search of medical help to save her eyesight. Lalu lived at the White Bungalow (which had been adapted and run by volunteer doctors to provide medical treatment for the poor).
Now Lalu is back at home with his family in Katawa but he dreams of going back to meet his friend Dr Prasad and becoming a doctor. However, his father has other plans for him; to stay and help him work on the land as well look after his younger siblings. Lalu’s father is ill and there is a drought in the area and the river has dried up. Now the whole town waits impatiently for the monsoon to come.
A parallel story follows Lalu’s friend Ram, a boy of the same age, who has been abandoned by his father, an Indian Army sergeant. Ram is living alone on the streets of Katawa surviving in any way he can by entertaining, stealing or begging for food. His dream is of a permanent home. While Lalu attends school Ram is reduced to listening to the classes from outside the window of the classroom. When Ram's father returns and discovers his son is learning to read and write he is not happy because he wants him to become a soldier like him.
Both boys face a dichotomy, follow their dreams or their families' plans. For both of them, the crisis comes with the sudden violence of a monsoon.
The White Bungalow written in 1962, is an engaging story set in India by Norwegian author Aimée Sommerfelt (1892-1975). Beautifully written and researched the novel gives an insight into rural life in India where the landscape is coloured by local animals and plants as well as social living, customs and traditions. Sommerfelt’s story shows a society in transition; her protagonists suffer extremely difficult circumstances such as poverty and the harshness of the land, which she handled adeptly and with realism. There is also a glossary of Indian words that are used throughout the text.
Sommerfelt was the author of numerous children's books and young adult novels. Her most famous book, The Road to Agra, written in 1959, has been translated into seventeen languages. It was her first to be translated into English by Evelyn Ramsden and published in the USA. The Road to Agra won the Jane Addams Children's Book Award and the Josette Frank Award.