Hope in the Valley by Mitali Perkins

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Before Silicon Valley was what we imagine today, it was the Valley of Heart’s Delight. Hope in the Valley by Mitali Perkins (Farrar, Straus and Giroux July 2023) is a captivating middle grade novel set in 1980 in those early days of the changing Silicon Valley. Pandita Paul, a 13-year-old Indian-American girl, grapples with the changing landscape of her semi-rural community and the racism the community faces. As the gorgeous old orchard next to her home is demolished to make way for housing, Pandita’s personal struggles become intertwined with the wider narrative.

The loss of her mother adds a profound layer of emotion to Pandita’s story. Pandita is still yearning for closure now, three years after her mother’s sudden death while they were in India. The abandoned orchard, once a sanctuary for Pandita and her mother, becomes a symbol of their connection. With the loss of her sanctuary, Pandita must find a new solace elsewhere.

Pandita turns to writing poetry, visiting an elderly friend at a local care center, and forming new connections, particularly with Leo, a confident and talented musician. Although she faces stage fright, her father makes her join music and drama camp, where she learns to speak up, not just on the stage but also as she works with the historical society to preserve her valley’s heritage. Just like many teens, she also must prepare for middle school and navigate her complicated friendships. As evident through this list of challenges, throughout the summer Pandita’s experiences encompass more than just the demolition of the orchard.

Pandita’s relatability is a standout feature of the novel. With her well-developed backstory, she feels like a real girl, allowing readers to easily connect with her experiences. Despite the differences in her circumstances, the novel’s themes of trying new things, finding friends, and discovering the courage to speak up are universally appealing. The novel also sheds light on the racial struggles faced by minorities in California during the 1900s, offering a fresh perspective to readers.

Hope in the Valley successfully captures the essence of the historic era of the 1980s, and it offered me a delightful glimpse into a nostalgic sample of my own 1980s childhood. However, its core strength lies in being a solid middle grade novel that appeals to a wide age range, from 8 to 12 years old and beyond. It particularly resonates with young readers who are navigating the trials of life, such as entering middle school and facing challenges in their friendships. Ultimately, this novel is a heartwarming tale of self-discovery, friendship, and resilience that will leave a lasting impression on its readers.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advance review copy of this book provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Reviewed on June 22, 2023

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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