I have read a few books about having a “different” or “difficult” name to have and/or pronounce. And I can empathize with them. Now, my name is not as unusual as Anjali or the author Sheetal Sheth has, but when I was growing up, we did not have “unusual” names. The most “exotic” was we had two spellings of Stacey/Stacy and a few Jennifer’s with various N’s. However, I know what it is like to go to the store and find the Name Item Display and the question, “Where is My Name?” Well, if someone had it, it was always “spelled wrong” (two Ns not my one) but more than not, I could not find it.
And in Always Anjali we have the same issue. There is a booth at the school carnival that has the names of Anjali, Mary and Courtney (which is another name that has multiple spellings) but of course she cannot find hers. This starts off a change of events that has a bully and others laughing at Anjali, and causing her to hate her name. Her mother tells her the beautiful meaning of her name, and how it is part of who she is and her connection to India and her family. And of course, Anjali learns how to stand up for herself and deal with the bully as she has no time for foolishness!
And Jessica Blank did not have time for anything but fun, adorable and sassy images. And when Anjali is riding off in the sunset, it is perfect. The colors are all popping, the imagery soft, but not faded. Things are simple, but fleshed out. The illustrations might not be “classic” but they have character. And in January 2024 the second title will be published, Bravo, Anjali!. Which I did not care as much for, but that could be as I read it as an online reader copy and there might have been things missing, or I just missed them, but there were jumps in the story arc that did not flow well for me. However, this book can be summed up with the line from an older student Anjali runs into, “Never dim your light, girl.” Yet, it needs to be said that this deals with issues of “what is for girls and what is for boys” as well as making someone feel bad about something they love, and that person overcoming their insecurities. I was wondering if the different style of art by Lucia Soto also added to my not likening it as much. They are nice, and I did enjoy them, but were missing something of the pop of the other book.
And as you wait for January 2024 for the companion Anjali book you can read, Making Happy illustrated by Khoa Le. This is a completely different vibe, but is also a lovely book by the author.