Newbery winner visits school

Hanna Hornfeld, Contributing Writer

Author Veera Hiranandani visited the school last week to speak about her Newbery Honor winning book “The Night Diary” as a part of the Middle Division Lions and Cubs book club.

“The Night Diary” is the second book that Middle Division families have read together in Lions and Cubs, a club founded last year in which MD students and parents read and talk about books together, club founder and leader Rachael Ricker said. 

The historical fiction story of “The Night Diary” is told through a series of diary entries written by twelve-year-old half-Hindu half-Muslim Nisha, who flees from Pakistan with her family during the partition of India, a tension-filled event that split India into India and Pakistan in 1947.

Much of the book was inspired by Hiranandani’s personal background, as her father and his family were also refugees during the partition and made the same journey as Nisha does in the book, Hiranandani said. Hiranandani generally prefers to write about topics that she has a connection to, she said. “It makes my relationship to the characters deeper and easier to access on an emotional level,” she said.

When Ricker first read “The Night Diary”, she knew it would be her next pick for the book club, she said. “‘The Night Diary’ felt like the perfect book to share as a family. It has so many connections to family, identity, and history, and I could really envision parents and kids talking about it at the dinner table,” she said.

According to Ricker, Hiranandani was the first author to visit the Lions and Cubs book club, although the author of the previous book they read visited the school for a separate occasion.

Hiranandani was enthusiastic about visiting the book club because she enjoys speaking to students, she said. “Writing can be a bit lonely, so it’s wonderful to interact with my readers or prospective readers,” she said. “I especially love answering questions and having discussions about my books and my writing.”

In her presentation, Hiranandani spoke about her writing process and the history behind her book. Part of the reason why Hiranandani chose to make her book a middle-grade novel is that she felt that pre-teens needed more access to stories and education about the partition, she said.

Geeta Kumar P’20 P’23, whose parents and parents-in-law went through the partition, particularly enjoyed the book and Hiranandani’s presentation because she had a personal connection to them and was able to share the history with her son, she said.

Avi Kumar (8), Geeta’s son, enjoyed learning about his family history with his mother, he said. “My mom and I both found the book and the presentation to be very thought-provoking, and it was interesting to learn more about my connection to the culture,” he said.

The book also sparked conversations between Natalia Hecker (8) and her mother, Hecker said. “When I was little, my mom and I would read together all the time,” she said. “It’s really special to be able to connect over books again.”

Avi enjoyed listening to Hiranandani speak about her writing process, he said. “It was nice to learn how she writes, what gives her ideas, and even why she cares about including specific things in her books, such as diverse kinds of foods,” he said.

For all the aspiring writers in the audience, Hiranandani’s advice was to have patience and have fun, she said. “Good writing takes time and practice, so the best thing to do is keep writing, keep reading, and enjoy the ride,” she said.