Week-end Book Review: The Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Uma Krishnaswami, illustrated by Abigail Halpin
In her exuberant new book, The Grand Plan to Fix Everything, award-winning writer Uma Krishnaswami uses the novel form itself to deconstruct film-making, especially plot development. In the process she creates layers of plot fun for ‘tween girl readers.
Best friends Maddie and Dini are separated when Dini’s physician mom gets a chance to return to India for two years. Through internet and mobile phone technology and her dad’s computer skills, Dini stays connected to Maddie, back in the States, while she attempts to realize their dream scheme: to meet their idol, Bollywood “fillum” star Dolly Singh. Plot reversals abound, of course, but thanks to a conscientious postal worker, an Indian girl with a talent for sound effects, Dini’s tolerant if clueless parents, a bakery that puts chocolate in curry puffs, a singing electric car, and even a goat-herder, not to mention the characters and crises in Dolly’s career and love life, Dini’s dream of meeting Dolly more than comes true.
Dini knows that there is something mysterious about how everything works out in Dolly’s fillums, but orchestrating to her purposes the characters in Krishnaswami’s fictional Indian hill town, Swapnagiri (Dream Mountain), is a big challenge for an 11-year-old–even after Dini learns that Dolly is staying in the very same town. However precocious and however loyal a fan Dini is, she needs vision, luck, courage, energy—and kismet!—to realize her dream. Patterning herself on Dolly in her fillums, Dini aspires to have everything come out right, every dream come true.
Abigail Halpin‘s humorous black-and-white drawings and cover illustration give just the right amount of visual suggestion to young imaginations. Krishnaswami’s lively plot exudes entertaining references. No mention of Mumbai passes without reference to fillum people who still call the city Bombay, for example. Dini’s puzzlement about a grip’s role on a film becomes an extended joke. Her dad’s penchant for nifty phrases introduces homespun English idioms. As Dini follows Dolly’s musical advice to “Sunno-sunno, dekho-dekho” (listen-listen, look-look), she becomes part of the Swapnagiri community and everything does come out right. Krishnaswami’s brilliant, multilayered book will delight her readers. Younger ones will love the story for itself, while older girls will also appreciate her nuanced message, plot dissection, and linguistic in-jokes.