Well, that was fun!
I mean, who wouldn’t love a novel of sacred cows, snakes and stolen toilets? And vomit? Because what is a book clearly written for 10-year-old boys without vomit? And fart jokes? Nothing, I tell you, nothing.
Mission Mumbai by Mahtab Narsimhan takes New Yorker Dylan Moore to India with his best friend Rohit Lal for a family wedding. Dylan begged to go with Rohit and his family in order to escape his parents, who are bickering. And especially to escape his dad, who wants him to play soccer. Which he hates. He’d much rather eat and take pictures.
Rohit doesn’t even want to be back in Mumbai. He hates it. He hates hanging with his huge extended family, he hates the food, he hates the heat, he hates the crowded busses. Fair. Except the food thing.
The author sends the boys on their adventures with veiled reminders. Don’t talk to strangers; appreciate the generosity of those with less than you; listen to your parents; New Yorkers aren’t that tough; learn about other cultures before you do something stupid; people adapt to their environments; everybody has their own sad story. It’s not too heavy handed. Most of it slides by.
I can’t be too cynical. Diverse children’s lit isn’t that easy to come by and author Narsimhan is from Mumbai. The setting details she includes in her writing feel authentic and create a vibrant, if sometimes amazingly dirty, space. She writes Mumbai, the city, with affection and even a little bit of wonder.