Mitali Perkins, who has written several award-winning books for young readers, grew up in a Bengali village and came to the United States with her parents when she was seven. Her difficulties navigating between the manners, slang, trends, and rituals in the States and the traditions in her home gave her firsthand experience of what it's like to adapt to a new culture.
In this story she introduces us to Shanti — whose name means "peace" — as she leaves her grandmother, warm monsoon rains, and palm trees to head to an utterly unfamiliar town in the United States. Her parents make their new apartment feel just like the Bengali village where Shanti grew up, but elsewhere she encounters an endless stream of strange things, from mac 'n' cheese to snowball fights.
Illustrator Lavanya Naidu shows us a Shanti who is alternately excited, curious, determined, frightened, perky, and exhausted as she tries to live this double life. The pictures — like one showing Shanti trying hard to get a ballet move right when other children do it effortlessly — are endearingly relatable.
Running back and forth between remembering the village and learning the town wears Shanti out. It's not until she lies down for a rest where she finds herself -- in the middle -- that she discovers how good she is at making anywhere feel like home.
Home Is in Between, written for readers ages 3 - 6, includes a helpful glossary of Bengali words and an Author's Note. Perkins explains that the ability to crack cultural codes "is like a superpower," something she tells young immigrants who struggle as she did and who in their own good time, she hopes, will find a peace like Shanti's.