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Pandita Paul is on the cusp of her teenage years, but all she wants to do is stay in the past and not move on to the future. She’s especially worried that she’s beginning to forget Ma, who died a few years ago when the family was visiting Ma’s native village in India. To counteract her fear, Pandita sets a big goal, dubbing it Operation Remember Ma. But there’s one problem with ORM—Pandita and her older twin sisters have formed a pact promising not to mention Ma because every time they do, their father, whom they call Baba, is overcome with sadness. But Pandita wonders how she will remember Ma if no one shares their memories of her.

Though Pandita wants to linger in the past, events in the 1980s Silicon Valley community in California where she lives catapult her into change. Though Silicon Valley used to be called the Valley of Heart’s Delight, it feels anything but that when the community is divided over a development plan that will possibly involve tearing down the historic, decrepit Johnson place and making way for housing. As battle lines form—the Historical Preservation Society wants to fix up the Johnson place and make it into a museum, a nonprofit agency aims to build affordable housing, and private investors hope to use the land to build a few large estates—Pandita enters the fray with her own secret motivation. Ma and Pandita had regularly escaped through the fence onto the Johnson property and enjoyed many happy hours together in what they called their Place of Hope.

As the summer months fly by, Pandita navigates more change than she thinks she can handle: relational stress with friends; Baba’s surprise courtship with a woman whom Pandita reviles; overcoming her fear of public speaking when she attends drama camp and performs in a musical; learning how to handle the housing battle; and experiencing the first pangs of love when a talented, kind boy moves to Silicon Valley.

When Ms. Maryann, the town librarian, encourages Pandita by telling her that she has an “uncanny knack for weaving together past, present, and future,” Pandita thinks, “Ms. Maryann’s wrong about this one. In the mixed-up life of Pandita Paul, past, present, and future feel more like a tangled knot than a tidy braid.”

But readers of Hope in the Valley will discover that Ms. Maryann was right as Pandita takes steps to fight racism, seek justice, and rebuild broken relationships. Author Mitali Perkins has skillfully and subtly woven biblical truths into her engaging, emotionally satisfying novel for middle school readers. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

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