Thushanthi Ponweera’s debut I Am Kavi is a beautiful middle-grade story of a Sinhalese girl, Kavi, who is struggling to find her place and identity. Set amidst the backdrop of the Civil war, the novel-in-verse is honest and appealing.
Kavi is a smart school-going girl who lives with her mother in a village. Her father’s sudden demise and her mother’s marriage to his best friend have created a distance between the mother and daughter. Even though Kavi doesn’t express her dissent openly, her behaviour towards her mother has undergone a sea change. Once upon a time she used to worship her mother. And now, she can’t wait to get away. But she has a plan. She wants to get the scholarship, move to the city, and take her mother along with her. Away from the village. Away from her new husband.
Unfortunately for her, even though she gets the scholarship, her mother cannot join her. Kavi begins a new chapter of her life in Colombo without her mother by her side. The transformation from a girl from a poverty-stricken village to a city girl is challenging. Kavi wants to fit it. And in her desire to be seen and felt, she makes a few mistakes along the way.
Ponweera has done a fabulous job in creating a memorable character, addressing issues many kids would relate to, and narrating it in a manner that young readers would cherish.
The author not just highlights Kavi’s personal struggles, she weaves in serious socio-political themes like civil war, racism, poverty, societal divide, disability, and even death without getting into much graphic details. She explores varied family dynamics, village life, and local culture and transitions.
Younger readers will surely enjoy this book. It is easy to read, fast moving, touching, and inspiring. Despite the serious themes, the tone is quite optimistic, even humorous at times.
There are many characters in this story. Some major, and many secondary. But not one of them is out of place or sketched inappropriately.
There’s a lot to learn from Kavi’s journey. Her story teaches children to be brave and courageous, the power of acceptance, forgiveness, and love. It’s also a good opportunity for parents and teachers to discuss civil disobedience in Sri Lanka.
I loved reading ‘I am Kavi,’ and am waiting to read more of Ponweera’s works.
Wordsopedia Rating 5/5
|Title: I Am Kavi||Author: Thushanthi Ponweera|
|Publisher: Holiday House||Publication date: 19 Sep 2023|
|Genre: Fiction—Children’s||Format: eBook|
|ISBN: 9780823453658||No. of Pages: 272|
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About the author
Thushanthi Ponweera is an author and poet from Sri Lanka. Before daring to follow her dream of being published, she was a marketing specialist and entrepreneur. Her writing reflects the frustration she feels at the inequality and injustice she sees around her and the deep love she has for her island home. Thushanthi currently lives in Colombo with her husband and two children. I am Kavi is her first novel.