Cover illustration by Aitch
Asha lives on the family farm with her mother in rural India.
Her father is away working in the city, and when the money he sends stops suddenly, a wicked aunt arrives. She’s determined to seize the property – and the treasure rumoured to be hidden on the land. Guided by a majestic bird which Asha believes to be the spirit of her grandmother, she and her best friend Jeevan embark on a journey to the city, across the Himalayas, to find her father and save her home …
A gorgeously original magical-realist Indian adventure and the winner of the 2017 Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition.
As Asha rereads the letter from her father again in the cowshed, she’s spooked by the ringing of a cowbell. One that hangs where there is no breeze to disturb it. As it rings a second time, her best friend, Jeevan, races in telling her she must get home. Money lenders are threatening her mother and their home, and with her father hundreds of miles away, she realises it’s time to find out why he’s no longer sending money home.
With her best friend at her side, and her spirit bird to guide them, they set off on a perilous journey across the Himalayas to bring her father home and save the family farm.
A beautifully told, gripping adventure with family, friendship and self-belief at it’s heart.
Jasbinder’s evocative writing transports the reader from the calm, quiet village of Moormanali, through the freezing forests and up mountains to the most northerly temple of the Himalayas at Kasare and back down into the hustle, bustle and darkest spots of Zandapur. No wonder Asha is determined to stop her mother moving the family to England!
Asha and Jeevan spark wonderfully off each other, supporting and encouraging, learning about their different beliefs and growing together as their journey becomes ever more treacherous. I can’t tell you my favourite moment (because, spoiler) but it had me doing a full on first pump at their bravery and teamwork.
I love that the Diwali story and spirituality is central to the plot, adding yet another layer of authenticity to this heartfelt story. And, thank you for putting the glossary at the beginning, so I could immerse myself in the Indian terms before I began reading and saving the fear of accidentally reading the end of the story, flicking to one at the back.
Want to know more? Head to the Chicken House website to read an extract.
About Jasbinder Bilan…
According to family stories, Jasbinder was born in a stable in the foothills of the Himalayas. Until she was a year and a half, she lived on a farm inhabited by a grumpy camel and a monkey called Oma.
Jasbinder graduated from Bath Spa University where the seeds of her story were nurtured, but it was the incredible bond with her grandmother which was the inspiration for Asha & the Spirit Bird.
She lives with her husband, two teenage boys and dog Enzo in a man pad and splits her time between teaching and writing.
Huge thanks to Jazz and Chicken House for sending me a review copy.