Cover image for The conch bearer
The conch bearer
Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee, 1956-
First edition.
Publication Information:
Brookfield, Conn. : Roaring Brook Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
265 pages ; 22 cm
In India, a healer invites twelve-year-old Anand to join him on a quest to return a magical conch to its safe and rightful home, high in the Himalayan mountains.
General Note:
"A Neal Porter Book."
Reading Level:
790 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 5.4 10.0 73959.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 6.5 15 Quiz: 34094 Guided reading level: X.
Geographic Term:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
J FICTION Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Action, adventure, and magic are combined in this exotic, compelling quest fantasy by a distinguished author of adult fiction and poetry. Set in contemporary India, the story opens in a poor section of Calcutta, where 12-year-old Anand is entrusted with a conch shell imbued with mystical powers. Anand's task is to return the shell to its rightful home high in the Himalayas. Will he succeed? This is literary fiction of the highest order, as well as an adventure story that is almost impossible to put down.

Author Notes

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni was born in India and later moved to the United States to attend college. She earned a M. A. at Wright State University and a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.

Divakaruni held many odd jobs until she was able to become an accomplished writer. She was the president of MAITRI, a crisis hotline for female South Asian victims of domestic abuse, and is currently a professor at Foothill College in California.

Her works have been recognized in more than 50 magazines and 30 anthologies. She also has been awarded two PEN Syndicated Fiction Project Awards, a Pushcart Prize, and the Allen Ginsberg Poerty Prize. Divakaruni's books include Arranged Marriage and The Mistress of Spices. Her Title One Amazing Thing made The New York Times Best Seller List.

(Bowker Author Biography) Chitra Divakaruni is the author of the bestselling novels "The Mistress of Spices" & "Sister of My Heart", the story collection "Arranged Marriage", which won several awards, including the American Book Award, & four collections of poetry. Her work has appeared in "The New Yorker", "The Atlantic Monthly", "Ms.", & other publications. Born in India, she lives in the San Francisco area.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 5-8. In modern-day India, a boy named Anand perseveres in difficult circumstances. His father is gone, his sister has had a breakdown, and he and his mother struggle to keep a shack's roof over their heads. Anand is kind to an old man, Abhaydatta, a healer who is charged with bringing home an irreplaceable conch shell, stolen from his brotherhood. What follows is a classic quest story in which Anand and feisty, orphaned Nisha eventually continue the quest for the shell on their own. Faced with all the conventions of the genre, they undergo various trials, and Anand makes choices that change his life. Fantasy lovers will recognize familiar elements; certain touches are reminiscent of the Harry Potter books (the evil one takes the shape of a snake) and C. S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (tempting food controls a child). With so many fantasies being published, what's special about this one? It's the unique setting, along with the elegance of Divakaruni's writing. The slums of Kalcotta are so richly created that readers can almost smell them, and the pure beauty of Anand's destination is a shimmering Shangri-La come to life. The characterizations have the same lucidity, real to the core, yet cloaked in magic. This speaks directly to children, in a very enticing voice. --Ilene Cooper Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Though he sounds a trifle over-eager at first, giving descriptions a perhaps too enthusiastic oomph, Cumming soon hits his stride as narrator of this fantasy-laced story about the unusual adventures of an Indian boy. Twelve-year-old Anand, who works hard at the local marketplace for his financially struggling family, finds himself recruited to embark on a special journey. Anand is to assist a healer named Abhaydatta on a trek into the Himalayas to return a stolen conch shell that has magical powers to its rightful home. Nisha, a young street urchin, tags along on the trip, and throughout, the trio is pursued by the nasty thief who originally stole the shell. The sort of remarkable creatures and dangers that fantasy readers might expect appear along the way. But in addition, many listeners will be riveted to the many vivid details about the exotic settings-a bustling Calcutta/Kolkata and the storied mountain range and its surroundings. Happily, Cumming does not exaggerate the Indian accents while giving each character distinction. Ages 8-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-7-Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni sets this story in contemporary India with many fantasy elements (Roaring Book Press, 2003). Her familiarity with the sights and sounds of an urban setting in Kolkata lends local color to the story. The mystical elements that contribute to the fantasy aspects are also very well realized and blend with common understandings of Hindu philosophy. Alan Cumming provides superior narration, clearly delineating each voice and using authentic-sounding Indian accents where appropriate. Anand, age 12, lives in poverty, but finds himself drawn to an enigmatic elderly stranger, a member of the Brotherhood of Healers, and the mystical circumstances of his appearance in their home. Convinced by the old man's healing of her daughter, Anand's mother reluctantly allows him to go on a journey with the stranger to return a magical conch shell to its rightful home hundreds of miles away. An independent and pragmatic nine-year-old girl joins their party in a traditional good vs. evil pilgrimage. This exotic fantasy/adventure story with an unusual twist on the journey theme will be enjoyed by upper elementary and middle school students.-Jane P. Fenn, Corning-Painted Post West High School, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.