When Anjali wakes up in the middle of the night, the cold floor makes her wonder if someone has come in the house and left the door open—a thief, perhaps?
While her mother sleeps soundly, Anjali investigates. There is no food missing from the kitchen, but Anjali soon finds that her sparkly skirt, her mother’s silver comb, and a handful of coins are missing. Panicked, Anjali runs into the street screaming, summoning her neighbors and finally waking up her mother. But when she discovers that her river rocks are also missing, Anjali wonders if the thief is a villain or maybe just a lost little girl looking for treasure. When Anjali and her neighbors finally apprehend the thief, it turns out to be someone—or, rather, something—they never would have expected. Eventually, Anjali falls asleep next to her mother, dreaming of befriending the surprise thief. While the book’s illustrations effectively use bold blocks of color to create a fanciful feel, the text leaves much to be desired. The story meanders, often including superfluous details that are either already in the illustrations or read as a rather belabored explanation of the South Asian setting. Several of Anjali’s actions feel age inappropriate, including lighting an oil lamp with no parental supervision, running through her neighborhood alone in the dark, and feeding a wild monkey a banana. These excitements aside, overall, the story is too scattered and the prose too uneven to hold attention. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.4-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 69.4% of actual size.)
Whimsical illustrations cannot mitigate the wandering plot and unimpressive prose.(Picture book. 2-6)