padma venkatraman

The Bridge Home

“Exquisitely narrated...This is a poignant portrait of love, sacrifice, and chosen family in the midst of poverty.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

Four determined homeless children make a life for themselves in Padma Venkatraman's stirring middle-grade debut.

Life is harsh in Chennai's teeming streets, so when runaway sisters Viji and Rukku arrive, their prospects look grim. Very quickly, eleven-year-old Viji discovers how vulnerable they are in this uncaring, dangerous world. Fortunately, the girls find shelter--and friendship--on an abandoned bridge. With two homeless boys, Muthi and Arul, the group forms a family of sorts. And while making a living scavenging the city's trash heaps is the pits, the kids find plenty to laugh about and take pride in too. After all, they are now the bosses of themselves and no longer dependent on untrustworthy adults. But when illness strikes, Viji must decide whether to risk seeking help from strangers or to keep holding on to their fragile, hard-fought freedom.

Padma Venkatraman is an oceanographer by training and a writer by choice. She is the author of four acclaimed novels, The Bridge Home, A Time To Dance, Island's End and Climbing the Stairs, which have received multiple starred reviews and appeared on numerous best books lists including ALA/YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, CCBC, New York Public Library Top 25, IndieNext, Kirkus Best Book of the Year, and many others.  Her books have won honors and awards including the Paterson Prize, Boston Authors Club Julia Ward Howe Award, RI Book of the Year, and the South Asia Book Award.  Padma was born in India and received her Ph.D. in oceanography from The College of William and Mary. She now lives with her family in Rhode Island.

Published in 2019 by Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House.

More praise for The Bridge Home:

“A heartfelt, wholly captivating story.” — School Library Journal, starred review

“Venkatraman’s middle-grade debut tackles sisterhood, chosen families, and loss… A blisteringly beautiful book.” — Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“An absorbing novel of love, loss, and resilience.” — Booklist, starred review

“Readers will be captivated by this beautifully written novel about young people who must use their instincts and grit to survive. Padma shares with us an unflinching peek into the reality millions of homeless children live every day but also infuses her story with hope and bravery that will inspire readers and stay with them long after turning the final page.” — Aisha Saeed, New York Times bestselling author of Amal Unbound


a time to dance

An ALA Notable Book

An ALA/YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Selection

 “Vividly written and expertly paced ... a moving story that will stay with readers long after the end.” — School Library Journal, starred review

Veda, a young Indian girl, seems well on her way to becoming one of the best Bharatanatyam dancers of her time when a tragic accident leaves her disabled. Forced to make do with a crude prosthetic leg because her family cannot afford a state-of-the-art prosthesis, Veda remains determined to dance with the same power and beauty as she once did. Her struggles bring her close to two very different men – a young Indian artist and an American doctor – both of whom help and support her dream. But neither they nor anyone else can help her battle the insistent ghost pain in her phantom limb. And Veda learns that to overcome her physical disability, she must discover a source of strength within herself and reach deep into the spiritual aspect of her dance.   

Published in May 2014 by Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House.

More praise for A Time to Dance:

“Venkatraman has created a rich, exotic, and fully human world that dazzles and delights. Her way with prose reflects Veda's with dancing: 'Nothing else fills me with as much elation as chasing down soaring music' This novel accomplishes exactly that.” — Providence Sunday Journal
“[A] powerful depiction of a teen girl struggling to recover from an accident.” — The Chicago Tribune
 “Set against a cardamom, melted butter, and semolina sojji-wafted landscape, the novel’s emotional expression and accompanying music impel the reader to share Veda’s belief that “Shiva dances everywhere. In everyone. In everything.”—Booklist, starred review
 “A beautiful integration of art, religion, compassion and connection.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
 “Told in verse, this story is magnificently strong as Veda’s determination dances off the page and into the reader’s heart.”—VOYA, starred review    

“This exceptional novel, told entirely in verse, captures beautifully the emotions of a girl forced to deal with a number of challenges and how she overcomes them on her way to becoming a confident young woman. It is sure to appeal to readers who are also trying to find their place in the world.”
School Library Journal, starred review    

Island's End

“Offering an enticing blend of mystic traditions and imaginative speculation, Venkatraman beautifully expresses a primitive tribe's connection to nature and their struggle to find safety in the 21st century.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

From the acclaimed author of Climbing the Stairs comes a fascinating story set on a remote island untouched by time. Uido is ecstatic about becoming her tribe's spiritual leader, but her new position brings her older brother's jealousy and her best friend's mistrust. And looming above these troubles are the recent visits of strangers from the mainland who have little regard for nature or the spirits, and tempt the tribe members with gifts, making them curious about modern life. When Uido's little brother falls deathly ill, she must cross the ocean and seek their help. Having now seen so many new things, will Uido have the strength to believe in herself and the old ways? And will her people trust her to lead them to safety when a catastrophic tsunami threatens? Uido must overcome everyone's doubts, including her own, if she is to keep her people safe and preserve the spirituality that has defined them. 
Drawing on firsthand experience from her travels to the Andaman Islands, Padma Venkatraman was inspired to write this story after meeting natives who survived the 2004 tsunami and have been able to preserve their unique way of life. Uido's transformation from a young girl to tribal leader will touch both your heart and mind. 

Published by Penguin in 2011.

More praise for Island's End:

“Succeeds spectacularly. . . . Uido is a remarkable heroine. . . . Heart-stopping action . . . the larger issues of modernity versus tradition offer much to think about. An intricate yet wholly accessible story.”— Booklist, starred review
“Readers will immediately connect with Uido. The doubt she feels in her own abilities will resonate with teens, as will her conviction to protect the ways of her people. . . . Vividly written and expertly paced . . . a moving story that will stay with readers long after the end.” — School Library Journal, starred review
“Uido's clear, intelligent, present-tense voice consistently engrosses as she pushes through doubt and loss to find the right path. The beach, jungle and cliff settings are palpable. . . . Refreshingly hopeful and beautifully written.”— Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Uido, all fire and passion and easy strength, is a strong, personable element. . . . Fans of survival novels . . . and informed readers curious to know more about how modern society would impact an isolated tribe will both feel they’ve found the right book.”— The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“The research Venkatraman incorporated into this novel is apparent. . . . A fantastic cultural story with identifiable characters and a plot in which the reader will want to believe.”— Voice of Youth Advocates


Climbing the Stairs

An ALA Notable Book

“With a delightfully strong female protagonist who struggles between tradition and the values she holds dear, this novel will capture the imaginations of many readers.”  — VOYA, starred review

Fifteen-year-old Vidya dreams of going to college— an unusual aspiration for a girl living in British occupied India during World War II. Then tragedy strikes, and Vidya and her brother are forced to move into a traditional household with their extended family, where women are meant to be married, not educated. Breaking the rules, Vidya finds refuge in her grandfather’s library. But then her brother does something unthinkable, and Vidya’s life becomes a whirlwind of political and personal complications. The question is, will she be strong enough to survive? 

Published by Penguin in 2010. 

More praise for Climbing the Stairs:

“This novel vivifies a unique era and culture as it movingly expresses how love and hope can blossom even under the most dismal of circumstances.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review
“In her first novel, Venkatraman paints an intricate and convincing backdrop of a conservative Brahmin home in a time of change.”
Booklist, starred review

"A welcome addition to the small but growing body of historical fiction about growing up female in India…This novel excels in its detailed depiction of a Brahmin girlhood and family life during a time of intense social and political change…"
Kirkus, starred review

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