Author Feature-Varsha Bajaj

 


Spirit of Texas Reading Program

Middle School

Featured Author

Varsha Bajaj

Varsha Bajaj

Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood

Varsha Bajaj grew up in Mumbai, India, during the 1960's. This was not the 1960's of America-she grew up surrounded by trees that we might consider exotic, and an extended family that nurtured her imagination and exposed her to British and American stories. Her tenth grade teacher inspired her first career choice, leading her to America as a graduate student in 1986, earning her Master's Degree becoming a Counselor, a US citizen, a wife, and a mother of two. She began writing in 1999, and, now living in Houston, Texas, continues to write today. 

 

 

Find her on the web:

Website

Twitter

Articles

Varsha Bajaj — Jill Corcoran Literary Agency

New Voice: Varsha Bajaj on Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood

Guest Post & Giveaway: Varsha Bajaj on Reading Across Borders & Cultures


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Book Trailer


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Book Quiz

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Multiple Choice Questions

  1. What is the main reason the girls love The Yogurt Cup?
    1. The Yogurt Cup sells only frozen yogurt
    2. All of their friends go there after school everyday
    3. The Yogurt cup sells frozen yogurt, slushies, has air conditioning and a cute counter guy
    4. Their boyfriends work there
  2. Who are the members of the ZAP trio?
    1. Zoey, Abby, and Priya
    2. Zelda, Anna, and Perla
    3. Zaid, Albert, and Paco
    4. Zack, Aaya, and Pat
  3. Zoey discovers she has an allergy to what?
    1. Dogs and cats
    2. Coconut
    3. Cedar trees and grasses
    4. Peanut butter
  4. What food was considered "weekend breakfast" in Abby's home?
    1. Oatmeal
    2. Bacon and eggs
    3. Pancakes
    4. Cold cereal and toast
  5. What instrument did Abby play?
    1. Oboe
    2. Bassoon
    3. Piano
    4. Violin
  6. Abby's mom decides to find Abby's father because:
    1. She felt it was time Abby met her father
    2. Abby's father sent a package for her birthday
    3. Abby was being teased about not knowing her father
    4. She wanted his medical history for Abby
  7. What was the news the "perked up" Naveen's mother?
    1. She has a granddaughter to meet
    2. She would be visiting the Unites States next month
    3. Her boyfriend proposed
    4. Her son was getting married
  8. What city will Abby visit for the first time ever-over Thanksgiving?
    1. Dallas, Texas
    2. Mumbai, India
    3. Paris, France
    4. New York, New York
  9. Who met Abby at the airport?
    1. Travis, her boyfriend
    2. Thomas, her dad's publicist
    3. Pierre, her uncle
    4. Gabriel, her mom's boss
  10. Shiva came to Mumbai as a:
    1. Runaway
    2. Immigrant
    3. Baby
    4. Millionaire
  11. Abby meets Shaan, who lives in what city?
    1. Mumbai, India
    2. New York, New York
    3. Dallas, Texas
    4. Paris, France
  12. What US food places did Abby see in Mumbai?
    1. Popeye's, Burger King, and Domino's Pizza
    2. KFC, McDonald's and Pizza Hut
    3. Wendy's and Taco Bell
    4. Chipotle and Panda Express
  13. Beta (Hindi) and Mijo (Spanish) are both terms of endearment meaning:
    1. Daughter
    2. Mother
    3. Father
    4. Son
  14. Shaan and Abby are both picked to do what at the film shoot?
    1. Be dance extras
    2. Be gophers
    3. Be makeup artists
    4. Be sound editors
  15. Grandma Tara gives Abby what to wear to the Premiere?
    1. Pearl earrings
    2. Her first pair of heels
    3. A new dress
    4. A lightweight coat
  16. The media learned about Naveen's daughter from Abby when:
    1. The interview was shown on TV
    2. She shouted "Leave me and my dad alone"
    3. She attended the Premiere with him
    4. Her mom tried to blackmail him
  17. Abby burned her grilled cheese sandwich because
    1. She didn't really know how to make it
    2. She likes her grilled cheese well done
    3. Her dad surprised her at her home in Texas
    4. She was talking to her friends and forgot she was cooking
  18. Abby's dad shared plans to start what with the profits from his movie?
    1. A frozen yogurt company
    2. A charitable foundation
    3. A teen movie company
    4. d. A school for American-Indian girls

Open Ended Questions

  1. If you could choose a country to reunite with an unknown family member, which country would it be? Provide reasons for the country you choose.
  2. Would you be willing to travel alone to an unknown country to meet a long lost family member? State a few reasons for your decision.
  3. What plate of food best describes your life? Explain the relationship between the foods you chose and your life.
  4. Abby states "my life would make the best book". If your life was a book, what genre would this book be labeled? What characteristics of your life fit this genre?
  5. Abby's father has instructed her to be careful about what she eats and drinks: no raw fruits or vegetables, only bottled water. Explain what this says about the water supply there?


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Academic Program 

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Program Title: H2O: Healthy 4 All?

Introduction/Purpose of Program:

For many of us, traveling does not pose a health risk, unless this travel takes us to places without healthy drinking water. This is the situation presented in Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood. Abby travels to Mumbai, India for the first time. Not only is she introduced to the world of Bollywood films, movies created for the express purpose of entertainment and escapism, Abby is also given quite a few cautions: don't drink water unless it is bottled, don't eat raw fruits and vegetables, etc.

In this program, students will explore the water situations of various countries, and present their findings using one of four different filmmaking types:

escapism-to find relief from reality
entertainment-for amusement or joy
documentary-to give factual information about real people and events
expose-to uncover details about an event or person to create a short feature film.

Final products will be viewed, and the information presented will be compared and contrasted to allow for conversation about the issue of healthy water for healthy populations.

Science, ELA, & STEM TEKS:

  • Science: Chapter 112.18b (6th grade) - 2A, 2E, 3A, 3D, 7A, 7B, 12E, 12F; Chapter 112.19b (7th grade) - 2A, 2E, 3A, 3D, 8A, 8C, 12B; Chapter 112.20B (8th grade) - 2A, 2E, 3A, 3D, 9C, 10B, 11A, 11B, 11C, 11D
  • ELA Research Strand: Chapter 110.18c (6th grade), Chapter 110.19c (7th grade), Chapter 110.20c (8th grade) - 22A, 22B, 23A, 23B, 23C, 23D, 24A, 24B, 25A, 25B, 25C, 25D
  • Technology Applications: Chapter 126.14c (6th grade), 126.15c (7th grade), 126.16c (8th grade) - 1A-C, 2A-B, 3A-D, 4A-E, 5A-D, 6B-D

Detailed Description of the Activity:

Begin with a bottle of drinking water displayed. Discuss the reasons this is a popular format for drinking water.

Share the information found in the report Bottled Water Sales: The Shocking Reality 

Solicit opinions regarding whether or not the US statistics would be the same in other countries.

Assign the research project, reviewing the requirements on the assignment handout.

Assignment Handout: H2O: the healthy drink?

Select a country (outside of the United States).

Conduct research to provide the information that follows.

Chose one of the four feature film types

escapism-to find relief from reality
entertainment-for amusement or joy
documentary-to give factual information about real people and events
expose-to uncover details about an event or person to create a short feature film.

Use the information collected to create a short "feature film", 3-5 minutes minimum.

Each feature film must include information on the following:

Name of the country: ____________________
Brief description to include, but not limited to:
Geography/climate
Population (number, composition)
Source/s of drinking water
Organization/s in charge of drinking water
Methods of drinking water treatment
Water effects on the health of the population
Water effects on the foods (crops, animals)
Organizations currently working to improve/provide better drinking water (example: walkforwater.org)
Suggestions for drinking water quality improvement
Impact on the future
Credits (bibliography) (must use 2 print resources and 3 electronic resources)

Bonus: list boundary and/or country name changes over the years

Do not begin feature film development until research has been approved.

Feature Film format: ____________________________

Program Related Books to Display or Book Talk:

  • Ballard, Carol. Food safety. Pleasantville: Gareth Stevens Pub., 2010. Print.
  • Beake, Lesley. Remembering green. London: Frances Lincoln Children's Book, 2010. Print.
  • Cohn, Jessica. Water crisis. Weigl. Weigl, p2014, c2014 978-1-62127-441-4
  • Craig, Joe. Safeguarding water and food supplies. New York, Rosen Central, 2013. Print.
  • Desonie, Dana. Humans and the natural environment: the future of our planet. New York: Chelsea House, 2008. Print.
  • Desonie, Dana. Hydrosphere: freshwater systems and pollution. New York: Chelsea House, 2008. Print.
  • Higgins, Matt. Clear choices: the water you drink. Chicago: Norwood House Press, 2011. Print.
  • Hollar, Sherman. Poisoning planet Earth: pollution and other environmental hazards. Chicago: Britannica Educational Pub., 2012. Print.
  • McGinnis, Mindy. Not a drop to drink. New York: Katherine Tegen Books, 2013. Print.
  • Park, Linda Sue. A long walk to water. Boston: Clarion Books, 2010. Print.

List of Supplies:

  • Access to computers
  • Access to a movie creator account such as:
    • animoto ( can set up free educator account and have students redeem your code for access https://animoto.com/ )
    • iMovie ( Apple platform for iOS-https://www.apple.com/ios/imovie/ for Mac-https://www.apple.com/mac/imovie/ )
    • MovieMaker ( Windows platform, typically free with bundles of Windows Office http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-live/movie-maker )
  • List of copyright free or approved images
  • Permissions granted for anything in most online subscription databases. This includes stills from Discovery Education and Searchasaurus on Ebsco.
  • Free Online Clipart
    • http://openclipart.org
    • http://commons.wikimedia.org
    • http://totallyfreeimages.com
    • http://www.morguefile.com/
    • Go to google images and advanced search. You have choices for "filters." Scroll to the bottom of this screen. At Usage Rights, you can select images you can use for free.
  • Access to print and electronic research materials
  • Assignment handout
  • Note taking form
  • Grading rubric/s
  • Bottled water

Resources (print and electronic):

Program Flyers, Posters, Advertisements, Bulletin Board Ideas, Templates, Rubrics, etc.:

Bulletin Board ideas

World map display, with pictures of bottled water students can add to the country researched.Water bottles would be of clear or dirty water, to define the quality of the drinking water around the world.

Another option would be to use the water bottles to create a visual graph: one bar of clean water bottles and another bar of not so clean water bottles, each with the name of the country represented written on the bottle label area.

Rubrics

Templates

Forms

 

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Active Programs

Printable Copy

Ticket to Travel

Introduction/Purpose of Program:

Abby experiences many new cultural aspects while visiting her father in Mumbai: learning a new language, learning about cultural dress, foods, and entertainment. The following activities will introduce the patron to some of these aspects of Abby's heritage.

Activities can be introduced as a group endeavor, or completed as individuals. Upon completion of each activity, the participant will receive a passport stamp. Completion of all activities, and a full passport, earns the participant a free (or reduced price if needed) ticket to attend a Bollywood Movie Night, complete with snacks.

Detailed Description of the Program

Learning the dance: Bollywood Lessons

Dance has a huge presence in Indian history; created in mythology by the gods and continued to be celebrated today in festivals and other cultural events. Words, gestures, music, and emotions create the body of the dance in India, and is unique and identifiable all around the world. It has a strong presence in modern history, especially in Bollywood films which aim to celebrate India's rich history, traditions, and culture.

There are six forms of classical dance in India: Bharatanatyam, Kathakali, Kathak, Kuchipudi, Odissi, and Sattriya. All of these dance forms originate in geographic areas across India and tell a story through movement and acting. Contemporary dance, which is more evident in India cinema and modern ballet, has its roots in classical dance with a twist of Western dance styles.

Participants will learn 2 different steps, and perform to earn their stamp.

The following video snippets offer online tutorials for basic Indian dance moves:

Music to dance to:

Books to display:

  • Chatterjee, Manini. India. London: Dorling Kindersley, 2002. Print.
  • Descutner, Janet. Asian dance. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2004. Print.
  • Venkatraman, Padma. A time to dance. New York: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014. Print.

Possible instructors to come to your facility:

  • Check with local area dance academies to see if they offer Indian Dance lessons or know of anyone in the area who does. Invite them to participate or see if they are willing to offer dance lessons for your event.
  • Austin & Houston areas 

Learning the foods

Drink Up

Use the ingredients provided, follow the recipe and make a cup of Lassi. Be certain to clean up when finished, returning any unused ingredients. When complete, ask the library staff member to stamp your passport.

Lassi Recipe
1 cup Plain yogurt
1 ½ cup Ice cold water
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Ground cumin
1 Green chili finely chopped (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a jar, cover tightly, and shake until frothy.
Pour into glasses and serve.

Provide the following for participants:

  • Lassi recipe, with instructions for activity
  • Lassi ingredients (these can be pre-measured if desired)
  • Jars with lids (mason jars will work well) to mix ingredients
  • Glasses

Indian Food Ingredient Identification (Alternative activity)

To cook Indian food, eleven essential items have been identified in the Real Simple magazine article "Essential Ingredients for Indian Cooking Checklist". Learn to identify these ingredients by matching the name of the ingredient with the corresponding picture of the ingredient. Once you have matched these, show your work to a staff member to receive your passport stamp.

Provide the following materials for participants:

  • A copy of the article
  • A copy of the pictures without the names (if this is laminated, a vis-avis marker can be used to write the names on to the correct pictures)
  • A set of separated, cut out names of the ingredients (without the pictures)
  • Container to keep names in (large zip lock bag)

Materials:

Books to display:

  • Chandra, Smita. Cuisines of India: the art and tradition of regional Indian cooking. New York: Ecco Press, 2001. Print.
  • Ejaz, Khadija. Recipe and craft guide to India. Hockessin, Del.: Mitchell Lane, 2011. Print.
  • Locricchio, Matthew. The cooking of India. New York: Benchmark/Marshall Cavendish, 2005. Print. 
  • Madavan, Vijay. Cooking the Indian way : revised and expanded to include new low-fat and vegetarian recipes. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner, 2002. Print
  • Shea, Mary. Foods of India. New York: Gareth Stevens Pub., 2011. Print.
  • Sheen, Barbara. Foods of India. Detroit: KidHaven Press, 2007. Print

Web Resources

Learning the dress:

Using the directions provided in the video "How to Wear a Sari" or "How to wear a Dhoti" dress in the items provided (items may be added over your original clothing). Once the items have been donned correctly, wear the items as you ask the staff member to stamp your passport.
Once your passport has been stamped, remove and return clothing items.

Provide the following, in large sizes:

Books to display

  • Elgin, Kathy. Costume around the world. India. New York: Chelsea Clubhouse, 2008. Print.
  • Kilgallon, Conor. India and Sri Lanka. Broomall: Mason Crest Publishers, 2003. Print.

Learning the language: on-line language tutorials

Participants will learn 10 phrases in the Hindu language (see page with phrases to learn) and repeat the phrases to earn their passport stamp

Provide the following:

Learning the Language Instructions

From the list provided, choose 10 common phrases a traveler to Mumbai should know. Use one of the links provided to learn how to pronouns the phrases. Once you have mastered the phrases, repeat to a staff member to earn your passport stamp.

Books to display:

  • Awde, Nicholas. Urdu : Urdu-English/English-Urdu dictionary & phrasebook. New York: Hippocrene Books, 2003. Print.
  • Ganeri, Anita. Hindi. Chicago: Heinemann Library, 2012. Print.
  • Hindi Exploratory Language Program. Austin: Liberal Arts Media Center, 1993. Print.
  • Raker, Joseph. Star English-Hindi, Hindi-English dictionary: with a detailed glossary of official terms. New Delhi, Star Publications, 2000. Print.
  • Scudiere, Todd. Hindi-English, English-Hindi concise dictionary. New York: Hippocrene Books, 2010. Print.
  • Sesma, Candido. English-Hindi, Hindi-English: word to word bilingual dictionary. Murrieta, Bilingual Dictionaries, 2008. Print.
  • Sinha, Rohan. Bilingual visual dictionary : Hindi-English. London: DK, 2008. Print.

Program Related Books to Display or Book Talk

  • Awde, Nicholas. Urdu : Urdu-English/English-Urdu dictionary & phrasebook. New York: Hippocrene Books, 2003. Print.
  • Chandra, Smita. Cuisines of India: the art and tradition of regional Indian cooking. New York: Ecco Press, 2001. Print.
  • Chatterjee, Manini. India. London: Dorling Kindersley, 2002. Print.
  • Descutner, Janet. Asian dance. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2004. Print.
  • Ejaz, Khadija. Recipe and craft guide to India. Hockessin, Del.: Mitchell Lane, 2011. Print.
  • Elgin, Kathy. Costume around the world. India. New York: Chelsea Clubhouse, 2008. Print.
  • Ganeri, Anita. Hindi. Chicago: Heinemann Library, 2012. Print.
  • Hindi Exploratory Language Program. Austin: Liberal Arts Media Center, 1993. Print.
  • Kilgallon, Conor. India and Sri Lanka. Broomall: Mason Crest Publishers, 2003. Print.
  • Locricchio, Matthew. The cooking of India. New York: Benchmark/Marshall Cavendish, 2005. Print.
  • Madavan, Vijay. Cooking the Indian way : revised and expanded to include new low-fat and vegetarian recipes. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner, 2002. Print
  • Shea, Mary. Foods of India. New York: Gareth Stevens Pub., 2011. Print.
  • Raker, Joseph. Star English-Hindi, Hindi-English dictionary: with a detailed glossary of official terms. New Delhi, Star Publications, 2000. Print.
  • Scudiere, Todd. Hindi-English, English-Hindi concise dictionary. New York: Hippocrene Books, 2010. Print.
  • Sesma, Candido. English-Hindi, Hindi-English: word to word bilingual dictionary. Murrieta, Bilingual Dictionaries, 2008. Print.
  • Sheen, Barbara. Foods of India. Detroit: KidHaven Press, 2007. Print
  • Sinha, Rohan. Bilingual visual dictionary : Hindi-English. London: DK, 2008. Print.
  • Venkatraman, Padma. A time to dance. New York: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014. Print.

List of Supplies

  • Passport and stamps
  • Lassi Recipe
  • 1 cup Plain yogurt
  • 1 ½ cup Ice cold water
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Ground cumin
  • 1 Green chili finely chopped (optional)
  • Jars with lids (mason jars will work well) to mix ingredients
  • A copy of the article 
  • A copy of the pictures without the names 
  • Vis-à-vis marker (optional)
  • A set of separated, cut out names of the ingredients (without the pictures)
  • Container to keep names in (large zip lock bag)
  • Answer key
  • Women: Sari (scarf-if not available, use a 6 foot long piece of fabric, and add decorative appliqué to one end) Optional: Choli (shirt), Lehengua (petticoat),
  • Men: Dhoti (if not available, use a 5 yard piece of fabric, ends sewn together (to make it a circle) Optional: Sherwani (long, coat-like jacket) Dupatta (shoulder stole), Mojdi (footwear), Safa (head wear)
  • Handout with phrases to be learned 
  • Headphones (if participant does not have their own)
  • Computer with links to one or all language learning programs

Incentives

A free (or reduced price if needed) ticket to attend a Bollywood Movie Night, complete with snacks.

Resources (print and electronic)

Professional Resources (for librarian and teacher use)

Program Flyers, Posters, Advertisements, Bulletin Board Ideas, Templates, Rubrics, etc.


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Passive Programs 

Printable Copy

Documents Please

Introduction/Purpose of Program

Travelers, especially those traveling in countries other than their own, are often asked to produce papers proving they may legally travel in that country. The United States issues three types of passports: (1) diplomatic, for people going abroad on important government assignments; (2) official, for other government employees; and (3) regular, for people traveling overseas for personal reasons. Source: DeFrank, T. M. (2015). Passport. In World Book Student. Retrieved from http://www.worldbookonline.com/student/article?id=ar416980

Detailed Description of the Program

Documents, Please directions

Provide a location for the key. Provide one copy of the background information (Background information may be provided in print, on a station wall, or linked on line), a blank template and one copy of the situations, cut into strips, per patron/group. Patron arranges strips. Once strips are arranged (under the correct column headings), the patron checks for accuracy with the key. Keep all activity items for patron use in a large ziplock bag. Additional situations may be added.

Passport Information: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english.html

Program Related Books to Display or Book Talk

  • Bombeck, Erma. When you look like your passport photo, it's time to go home. New York: HarperPaperbacks, 1992. Print.
  • Scillian, Devin. P is for Passport : A World Alphabet. Chelsea, MI: Sleeping Bear Press, 2003. Print.

List of Supplies

Incentives

  • Bollywood Evening Event (Stamp for Passport-each completed activity earns a stamp)

Resources (print and electronic)

Professional Resources (for librarian and teacher use)

  • http://www.fodors.com/
  • http://www.fodors.com/world/asia/india/mumbai/
  • http://www.lonelyplanet.com/india
  • http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english.html

Program Flyers, Posters, Advertisements, Bulletin Board Ideas, Templates, Rubrics, etc.

Display ideas:

Display Passports, passport stamps, suitcases, travel gear

 

 

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Created on Apr 2, 2015 | Last updated July 15, 2015