Cover Image: That Thing about Bollywood

That Thing about Bollywood

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Member Reviews

4 stars = Great! Might re-read.

This is a fun, magical story along the lines of a Groundhog Day or Freaky Friday where the main character finds herself in an alternate world where she has to figure something out in order to set things right. I enjoyed the Bollywood twist. I've not watched any Bollywood, but that didn't keep me from enjoying the story.

As an adult, it was easy to see the solution to the problem, but I love the message for kids here about emotional health. This could be a fun read-aloud or discussion group choice. Kids who enjoy Bollywood movies, musical theater, and drama might get a kick out of this story. But the central issues - hiding or expressing emotions, family conflict, divorce, grief/loss - can connect with any reader.
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I really liked this book.  The cover alone is GORGEOUS and what's inside is very good too, so it's not a typical, "gorgeous cover, less than stellar interior".  The cover matches the interior.  

I don't know much about the culture that was being depicted in this book and I really enjoyed reading it and learning a little about it through the book.  I do enjoy listening to watching Bollywood movies on occasion and the premise of the book, that by repressing her feelings and not sharing her thoughts, the MC's life was turning into a Bollywood movie was an entertaining one.  

My only quibble was it took the MC FOREVER to figure out how to stop it so she could have her life go back to normal.  Though honestly, having a Lambo as the family car isn't a bad compensation for breaking into song and dance when your emotions run high, just saying.  

I highly recommend this book.  Excellent for middle grade readers.  Somewhat heavy on the moral to share your feelings and not to bottle them up, but done in a fun way.  4, highly entertaining, stars.  

My thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers for an eARC copy of this book to read and review.
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If the TV show Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist was Bollywood and middle grade, it would be this book, and that means that this book is pure magic. When Sonali's world shifts and has a Bollywood makeover, she suddenly can't stop singing and dancing her feelings even though she would prefer to keep all her emotions locked up inside. Sonali has to deal with school, friendships, family, and her parents splitting up in this book and it's a great message about sharing your feelings and about community.

This is an example of a book that is probably spectacular in print, but just SHINES on audio. Hearing all the Indian words pronounced correctly and the emotion and inflection included in the musical numbers were stellar.

I tried finding out if this has been optioned for the screen yet and couldn't find anything. But this would be a SPECTACULAR movie. It would introduce kids not only to the wonderful messages in this story, but a great Indian American main character and the culture of Bollywood.
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I've read a plot like this one before, where inexplicable magic takes control of a character's life, but this is the first time I've seen it for a middle grade audience. It's unique in it's approach to Sonali's parent's separation as well. Typically in middle grade novels when parents separate the protagonist is desperate to bring them back together. Sonali, though, is relieved. She's ready for her life to find it's new normal and sees the intrusion of what she calls "Bollywood-itis" as a barrier to that change. The nuance comes when Sonali finally addresses her emotions. We see situations where we can be relieved and yet still grieve, happiness and anger all at once. Kelkar really demolishes the notion that emotion is weakness. These ideas might be a little heavy for some middle graders but the zaniness of the Bollywood changes add a lot of light moments.
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With thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing for an early copy in return for an honest review.

I don't typically read a lot of magical realism but this is the second book of this genre I've read this week and I have to admit, they're growing on me! There are not many MG books about Bollywood and so I think this book is both great representation for readers who don't often see themselves in books, and as an introduction to readers who may not know much about Bollywood. I also think the message of the importance of expressing your feelings instead of bottling them up inside is a great one for middle grade readers.

Added note: I think this would be a really fun movie for kids and adults!
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The beginning of this book (maybe the first 1/3 of it) focuses a lot on Sonali's problems- her friend conflicts and her parents continuous fighting. It was pretty hard, and I wondered where the book would go. Then, Sonali's world magically shifts, and she finds that her life had turned into a Bollywood. She has a theme song, she sings solos randomly in school, color splashes across walls, and so much more, and everyone thinks it's normal life. This shift from depressing to Bollywood-life  was magical, and I enjoyed. I also think that many students will find this a mirror-book (especially students with parents going through a divorce).  I'd definitely recommend this to 6th grade and up.
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This was such a wholesome and fun read! I really related to the main character, especially because she felt like she had to be emotionless in order to cope with being overwhelmed. I think this was funny and brilliant and heartfelt all at once and definitely did a great job incorporating a love of bollywood music while also spreading the message that it's absolutely okay to share your emotions and be open even when you think you might be burdening others. I liked that it talked about being open with your parents and calling them out when they unintentionally hurt you even when they are trying to do something they think is good for you.

I loved the scenes that were described with the musical numbers. I could easily see this being a cute movie! The interactions between Sonali and her brother especially near the end! Of course, I was frustrated with Sonali as she had a lot of growing and self realization to go through, but I also understood her on a deep level and really loved being in her mind, especially as she tried to navigate this upside down world and friendships and family drama.

I would definitely recommend this to fans of bollywood, Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist, singing and dancing your heart out (quite literally), keeping family secrets because of reputations, and trying to juggle new friendships and not be jealous! I loved the friendship dynamics and the sibling relationship, so if you enjoy platonic deep relationships like that, this would definitely be something you enjoy, not to mention just the wild and fun way that this story was told with bollywood magic!
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What a cute story about embracing and expressing feelings! So many readers will benefit from reading about Sonali struggle with grief, her parent's separation, fighting with her best friend Zara, all the while trying to figure out why her life was being turned into a Bollywood movie. I enjoyed all the descriptions about Bollywood movies, from the music, fashion, dancing and settings. The world that Sonali is thrust into from what she calls filmi magic is all about expressing feelings and she's only used to covering hers up. I think using the filmi magic every time she tries to suppress emotions was a great way to show the what can happen if emotions are bottled up and not talked about, the world around you becomes harder to navigate. This would be an excellent addition to any upper elementary grade and middle school classroom library! 
Thanks NetGalley!
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The story is different in a variety of ways, but hone it down to its essence and it is about learning how to deal with your emotions. We see a great deal about Social Emotional Learning, and in this story, Sonali is struggling with her parent's divorce, changes in friendships, and the general realities of being in middle school. Part of the problem is that Sonali's father has taught her that it is not good to show feelings, not okay to let anyone know that not everything is going swimmingly. Squash it down instead. That works, right? Cue Elsa.

In the magical land of fiction, Sonali's life becomes a Bollywood film. Everything is brighter and people break out into song and dance at the drop of a hat. Everyone has their own soundtrack and feelings are shared through song. Sonali is the only one who remembers life before Bollywood-itis and is desperately trying to get back. Much like Groundhog Day, she has to figure out her issues and deal with them before she can make things normal.

While the book isn't perfect and took some time to get into, I do appreciate the fact that Sonali has to learn to face her emotions instead of running away from them. It is okay to show people that you are afraid of something or angry. It is good to talk to your friends and ask them for help when you are dealing with a difficult situation. Keeping everything hidden and only showing people your social media happy face will break you at some point. These things eat away at you like a cancer. Our friends are not mind-readers but they do usually want to help when they can.

It is great to see a book with South Asian culture and one that deals with divorce. I have a page of bibliotherapy books and there are so few in that category. But divorce is a real issue that our kids have to deal with. Sonali's best friend Zara shines throughout the book, being a great voice of reason encouraging Sonali to be more open about what is going on. A very different story that many will enjoy.
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Thank you Netgalley and Simon & Schuster Books for access to this arc. 

Unfortunately, this is another instance of a mismatch between what a book cover promises and what the book actually delivers. The blurb does include the conflicts of the story but in such a way that it still seemed to me that things would be lighter. Given the heavy nature of some of what happens, I think readers need to start by admiring the cute cover but then forgetting it. 

The diversity and multiculturalism in the book is marvelous. Even though I didn’t understand all the Hindi words, I actually enjoyed that as it made me focus on how the meanings were conveyed in ways other than just parroting the translations. When I read the blurb, the idea of it sounded fun and in truth it was fun to read about. I wish I knew a little bit more about Bollywood movies to have caught all the references but I have watched a few so I got a teensy bit. 

Sonali sure gets crabby a lot but she is also young (eleven-ish) and dealing with a lifetime of emotions that are hard to handle. To the world, her parents deny anything is wrong as they don’t want the Indian community gossiping about them. When her father’s younger sister was battling cancer, instead of reaching out to family and friends for help, they stonewalled everything. 

The scenes of Sonali and her Pakistani-American friend drifting farther apart are sad but do a good job of showing the need for openness. At times this is subtly backed up news reports of growing tensions between India and Pakistan. The Bollywood song and dance scenes are fun to read especially as it’s “normal” for students and teachers to instantly become back-up singers plus everyone apparently has their own continuous background music tracks. I found the depiction of the simmering anger between Sonali’s parents to be sadly realistic and could understand Sonali’s conflicting feelings of sadness mingled with relief at their final decision.        

The main problem for me was that, as an adult, it was fairly obvious what Sonali’s issue was and what she had to do in order to fix her “Bollywood-itis” yet it took her nearly the entire book. Because of that, the plot just seemed to drag and drag. Here’s another scene of the friction and tension in her household, the misunderstandings with her best friend, and then Sonali denying her feelings, stuffing them back down inside her leading to yet more Bollywood extravaganza song and dance numbers or set decorations in Sonali’s life. 

There are many things about the book that are well done. I appreciate that Sonali had to unlearn what she had unfortunately taken to heart years before about not showing family troubles to others in the community. But as an adult reading it, this was a long, slow trip to get there. C+
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This is a lovely, really fun book that I'm so happy I was able to read. Perfect for libraries looking to be inclusive. Can't wait to read it again!
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That Thing About Bollywood is a South Asian middle grade book that follows eleven-year-old Sonali stuggling to express her feelings about her parents' separation. Sonali's dad has always tried to keep the family's hardships a secret. When Sonali makes a presentation in the first grade on why her parents should stop fighting, her father is more concerned that she gave the presentation in front of family friends than what her presentation was about. After that experience, Sonali decides to bottle her feelings. This tactic works until her parents announce they're separating and her life transforms into a Bollywood film. Every time she attempts to hide her feelings after that, she either breaks out into song or her world transform even more into a Bollywood film. And the best part is that no one else notices that their life has gone Bollywood, with personal soundtracks and spontaneous dance numbers. 

I wish I had this book in middle school when I was struggling to get along with my friends just like Sonali and Zara, or when I was struggling to tell my parents how I felt. I love that this book discusses the expectation in South Asian communities to pretend your life is perfect. It can feel like saying nothing is the only way to please people who don't listen when you are upset. 

Overall, I really related to Sonali throughout the book. This is one of the first middle grade books featuring an Indian American main character that I have ever met. So much of her worldview felt similar to mine, something I never got to see as a child. I don't know what else to say besides this book really felt like home.
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I’ve only recently been getting into MG books, and at first I was a little worried that this one was going to read a little young, since the MC is only 11. However, once I read a little further into it, I got completely into the story and forgot all my concerns. 

Sonali is Indian-American, and lives in a community surrounded by family members and close friends of the family, who are also referred to as aunts and uncles. While her cultural ties are strong, there’s also a strong push to keep things inside the house private, which causes a lot of issues within her immediate family, especially as Sonali’s parents are experiencing marital difficulties. This has led to Sonali pushing her emotions down, and not really knowing how to express them at all. When their arguing intensifies and her parents decide to separate, neither of the kids take it very well. Ronak, her younger brother, becomes even more emotional, crying a lot. Sonali, on the other hand, becomes even more stoic, leading to a whirlwind of emotions inside that she is unable (and unwilling) to let out. 

Overnight, Sonali’s world changes and becomes like one of her beloved Bollywood movies. I loved how she sees so much of her life through the lens of Bollywood films, since that is what she knows best, and it gave me insight into the way Indian-Americans in this story express their culture. It also talked a little about the intersection between Indian-Americans and Pakistani-Americans, and how the experiences and trauma from Partition continued to impact their lives even generations later. 

As Sonali sees her family and her social relationships change, she wants to get to the bottom of the Bollywooditis (as she calls it), to make it stop happening and get her life back to normal. But to do so, she’s going to have to make the difficult choice of learning how to manage her emotions in a different way than she’s been trying to do her entire life. 

I loved seeing her journey to getting in touch with her emotions and expressing them. Along the way, she sees her family and friends in a new light, and it was such an interesting story. This was a fun, fast-paced, adorable, and sweet story that I truly enjoyed reading. It’ll be released soon, so definitely check it out!
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This was light, fun, well worth the read, but I must say I liked other books by her, the Paneer one, for example, a little bit more. But this was great too.
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Sonali's parents fight. All. The. Time. So much that, in 1st grade, she decided to make a presentation about why her parents shouldn't fight and display it during an extended family dinner. Naturally, it didn't go over so well, and ever since then, she's learned to bury her emotions deep within where no one can get at them. She gets called a robot sometimes, but its fine, because she won't get hurt or show weakness by showing emotion.

Until her parents decide to seperate. It's really a trial-run at the moment, but Sonali can't help but feel a little upset. But why should she since it would be better for everyone involved anyways? Still, upset as she may be, she won't bear her emotions out for the whole world to see, even to her best friend, Zara. 

And then one day, she wakes up to a world where people sing and dance like in a Bollywood movie. Its completely normal in this new world, and no one seems to remember a world without it. But it's a nightmare for Sonali - displaying her emotions by singing and dancing? Absolutely mortifying. But nothing she does will stop it. The harder she tries, and the more feelings she tries to hide, the more her world resembles Bollywood. She suspects her world could permanently resemble Bollywood after the "grand finale", but can she figure out how to stop it from happening?

A very moving and vivid book, there were multiple moments when I just wanted to hug Sonali, but as it was, I had to settle for managing the lump in my throat from not crying. Obviously, the book was about managing your emotions properly and the difficulties of parental seperations and friendship trouble, but I also loved how seamlessly the author blends the world of an Indian-American. Many writers will write about a main character who is the odd-one-out due to their race or write about racism or defying cultural expectations or really anything that would make a character stand-out because of their race, but Supriya Kelkar does a magnificent job of showcasing that Indian-Americans can just simply be themselves. I love how the focus shifts away from being Indian-American to mental health, especially since it is such an important issue in modern society, specially among Asians in general, many of whom think acknowledging mental health is a sign of weakness. But anyways, what I mean to say is that That Thing About Bollywood is a really vivid, beautiful, and emotional book, and I would recommend it highly for anyone interested in both cultural representation and/or mental health.
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I wouldn’t mind experiencing a bit of Bollywooditis.

Sonali’s life is imploding. She might be losing her best friend to a popular girl in her class, her parents’ marriage is on the rocks, and to top it all off, she suddenly starts to hear music, or “soundtracks” and bursts into song in public, much like in the beloved Bollywood films she is obsessed with.

I adored American as Paneer Pie, so I was very excited to read Kelkar’s latest, That Thing About Bollywood. It seemed perfect for me, as a child who was obsessed with (American) musicals and as an adult who only recently got into Bollywood musicals (thanks, pandemic!) When a character in a musical spontaneously bursts into song and dance, it’s because what they feel is so strong that using regular words just won’t do. This device is truly perfect for any middle schooler experiencing strong emotions because of hardship. What an important message to say that it is perfectly normal to feel any emotion you need to feel.

I would definitely recommend this to kids who love musicals, and hopefully young readers will check some Bollywood films out after they read this!
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I was really looking forward to reading this book, but discovered I couldn't send it to my kindle. When I realized that, I was going to read it on my phone, but the Netgalley shelf app is poorly designed on my android phone and is not easy to read on so I could not read it.
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Great representation. I loved reading about a Gujarati girl. However, this plot is so visual, it would have made more sense as a movie than a book. It's difficult to imagine what the author is describing unless you've already seen a lot of Bollywood movies. Very emotional, kind of preachy towards the end.
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That Thing About Bollywood by Supriya Kelkar was a light-hearted fun glimpse into the Indian Bollywood culture and I enjoyed reading it.  Sonali, the main character, from a young age learned to suppress her emotions.  When her parent's fighting becomes so intense and they announce their separation, Sonali wakes up to find that life has taken on a Bollywood film style, with personal musical soundtracks, excessive drama and spur of the moment singing and dancing.   Yet all her friends and family view this as perfectly normal.  The more Sonali attempts to control her emotions, the more the magic of Bollywood takes over her life.   I liked imagining this as a movie--the costumes, dance numbers, and musical numbers--right up my alley!  I think a lot of the kid readers will relate to the fighting and separation of the parents, the desire to keep it a secret, and the problems that can cause in a multitude of relationships.  Overall, this was a fun, engaging read.  

Thanks to NetGalley and the Publisher for this eARC.
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My students are big fans of Supriya Kelkar. They will enjoy this new title. I have several Indian American students who were excited when I told them about this title. Can't wait to add it to my classroom library.
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