The Secret Keeper is a nice introductory piece for those wanting to explore the mysteries of the land that lies between the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. The form of the story is not foreign, but some of the conflicts that arise might not be so familiar to all readers. The idea of the next living male relative taking responsibility for the family is not totally unfamiliar. The basic story could be lifted out of this setting and put into another culture. The results could be the same, but the journey would take a few different turns. The ability for a story to be able to cross cultural boundaries says a lot about the basic ideas behind the writing. Mitali Perkins is able to make that happen.
One element that always hangs in the balance with books set in another culture is the decision to include or omit various concepts, traditions, and vocabulary. Their use adds color and brings a sense of authenticity that is often unachievable by any other means. What does not work well is to depend solely on a glossary or appendix to provide such details. Perkins uses both, but only as an additional resource at the end of the text. Although preferences vary, finding a way to embed this extra information in the text would have been sufficient.
A decent story with some cultural information is what one should expect from this book. Creative teachers might develop the family issues and even find a way to share the book with an entire class. Other possible uses include an investigation into gender roles in sports and education.
Add this book with confidence, but be prepared to talk it up among students to get them started.
A Weak 4 Out of a Possible 5
Andrews High School
Andrews, NC 28901