Hello Book Dragons!
I’m back with another blog tour, this time for Bali Rai’s Mohinder’s War. I jumped at the chance to host a date after reading the synopsis and will be reviewing it asap.
I’m delighted to be sharing a guest post written by Bali about the book and characters. I’m even more excited about reading the book now!
Deciding exactly who is the central protagonist of my book is difficult. Although it’s about Mohinder “Mo” Singh, the narrator is Joelle Breton, a French girl who finds and rescues Mo after his plane crashes. Picking both feels like cheating, but they can’t be separated. Take one away, and the story simply isn’t worth reading.
I’ll start with Mo. Writing about a Sikh war hero was a huge pleasure. Although born into a Sikh family, I am not one. However, both the religious and cultural aspects of Sikhism inform my upbringing. The real Mohinder Singh Pujji was a fascinating human being. His service to Britain during World War Two was as heroic and notable as anyone else’s. Sadly, that service, although recognised by both the Sikh community and those who study WW2, is still not widely known or appreciated. So, bringing his name to young readers is a huge honour.
In my story, Mo is principled and loyal. His Sikh faith features heavily. It teaches him that all human beings are equal and part of one whole. It guides his moral code and means he treats Joelle and the others as human before anything else. It is probably my favourite aspect of his character. He also chooses to forgo one of the basic tenets of Sikhism, when he decides to shave and cut his hair. I agonised over this part for ages. The balance between respecting one of the five basic pillars of Sikhism and Mo managing to become less conspicuous was hard to achieve. In the end, his dilemma became central to his promise to look after Joelle. That self-sacrifice makes Mo a hugely admirable character.
Joelle is kind and faithful and intelligent. Her empathy and understanding belie her youth, and as I wrote the story, I found myself admiring her greatly. I threw a whirlwind of emotions at her, and she coped with each and every one. Her concern and care for Mrs Moreau and her active resistance show her at her best. This is a child, under Nazi occupation, forced to think and act in an adult manner. Yet, she doesn’t complain, and even when tragedy strikes, she is brave. Clever enough to understand that she has to move on, for the good of them all. I warmed to her from the start, and that respect grew as the story progressed.
Mo and Joelle are inseparable. Not just within the plot, but for the story to work at all. Each has empathy for the other, and each teaches the other. As they navigate the drama, their bond strengthens until it is unbreakable. They form an unlikely duo, and that’s just another reason to admire them. Each accepts the humanity of the other, with respect and compassion. I’m very happy for that to be a message for readers, too. That even in times of great adversity, decency and humanity come before anything else.
Bali Rai has written over forty novels about teenagers and children. Born in Leicester, his writing is inspired by his working-class, multicultural background. A leading voice in UK teen fiction, Bali is a passionate advocate of libraries, reading for pleasure and promoting literacy. He has nearly twenty years of experience in working with young people across the UK and further afield and is extremely popular with schools. He has been nominated for and won numerous awards since 2001.