Written by Shabnam Minwalla and illustrated by Tanvi Bhat, When Jiya Met Urmila (Amazon linkis published by Duckbill. It has been shortlisted for the Neev Children’s Book Award, 2019. Recommended age for self-reading: Regular 9+ | Advanced 7+.

When Jiya Met Urmila follows the unlikely friendship of two girls from vastly different backgrounds. Jiya’s father is a banker and she lives in a gated apartment complex. Urmila’s father is a car mechanic and she lives in a small house. Although separated by only a wall, the two girls have never met one another and live completely different lives, until one day, trouble brings them together. 

After Jiya is caught picking flowers from cranky Mr Jajoo’s garden for school, Urmila comes to her rescue and the two make a plan to save Jiya. Although apprehensive at first, they overcome their differences and come together to escape the wrath of Mr Jajoo, who is the neighbourhood terror. 

This book is part of Duckbill’s immensely popular “hole books” series, and is also the author and illustrator’s third hole book together after Shy Supergirl and Lucky Girl. Among the hole books, Mira the Detective and Timmi in Tangles are on the BICW award list.

Class inequality

When Jiya Met Urmila is a story that highlights socio-economic class inequality without making it the central plot, which is appreciated. It shows how prejudices that plague the adult world are easily passed on to younger children. Both Urmila and Jiya are initially reluctant to become friends and are quick to judge the other for the way she behaves. We also learn about the differences between the two girls in her descriptions, from the way they dress and speak to the schools they go to and their unique ways of thinking.

What did you think of the book? Comment and let us know! Have you read our reviews of the other books on the Neev award 2019 shortlist? Also, check out the Best of Indian Children’s Writing (BICW) – Contemporary Award list!

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