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Ajay and the Jaipur Moon

Authored by Varsha Shah
Illustrated by Sonia Albert
Published by Chicken House

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Ajay and the Jaipur Moon is Varsha Shah’s sequel to the popular Ajay and Mumbai Sun.

Ajay was abandoned by his mother and lives on the Mumbai railways. He and his friends now publish their own newspaper (The Mumbai Sun), but without a printing press they are limited in the numbers of copies they can produce. When a cash prize is offered by Mrs Surya (owner of the WECU Space Programme) for finding a missing meteorite, Ajay knows that this could be an opportunity to fund the printing press AND get a major scoop! The friends speed off to Jaipur on a quest to locate the meteorite, but a dangerous individual known as ‘The Man in the Grey Suit’ seems determined to stop them. What follows is a thrilling, action-packed adventure involving chases, vicious robot dogs, sabotage and betrayal!

The text is a feast for the senses with detailed descriptions of the sights, sounds and scents of Jaipur. It would be fabulous to bring fragrances of sandalwood, jasmine flowers and amber perfume into the classroom to use alongside photographs or video clips of significant landmarks mentioned in the book.

Alongside action and humour are serious socio-political messages. The power imbalance between rich and poor is a significant theme and there is mention of child labour and exploitation. There are many points in the book that would prompt deep discussions. ‘What defines where someone belongs?’ asks Ajay. He later comments, ‘All that matters about a society is the way it treats its most vulnerable.’  The children’s achievements (in the face of adversity) and their tight friendship makes Ajay and the Jaipur Moon an empowering and heart-warming read. When Ajay’s friend Jai is fearful and doubting himself, Ajay reassures him: ‘You are everything. You can be scared around us. We’ll be your shelter.’

This would be a great text to enjoy, to prompt rich discussion and to offer opportunities for critical literacy in upper KS2+. Of note if reading the book in school is that there are brief and passing references to terms linked to acts of war (e.g., drone strikes, arms dealers, torture, civilian casualties).