One of our recommended books is Amil and the After by Veera Hiranandani


A hopeful and heartwarming story about finding joy after tragedy, Amil and the After is a companion to the beloved and award-winning Newbery Honor novel The Night Diary, by acclaimed author Veera Hiranandani

At the turn of the new year in 1948, Amil and his family are trying to make a home in India, now independent of British rule.

Both Muslim and Hindu, twelve-year-old Amil is not sure what home means anymore. The memory of the long and difficult journey from their hometown in what is now Pakistan lives with him.

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A hopeful and heartwarming story about finding joy after tragedy, Amil and the After is a companion to the beloved and award-winning Newbery Honor novel The Night Diary, by acclaimed author Veera Hiranandani

At the turn of the new year in 1948, Amil and his family are trying to make a home in India, now independent of British rule.

Both Muslim and Hindu, twelve-year-old Amil is not sure what home means anymore. The memory of the long and difficult journey from their hometown in what is now Pakistan lives with him. And despite having an apartment in Bombay to live in and a school to attend, life in India feels uncertain.

Nisha, his twin sister, suggests that Amil begin to tell his story through drawings meant for their mother, who died when they were just babies. Through Amil, readers witness the unwavering spirit of a young boy trying to make sense of a chaotic world, and find hope for himself and a newly reborn nation.

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  • Kokila
  • Hardcover
  • January 2024
  • 272 Pages
  • 9780525555063

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About Veera Hiranandani

Veera Hiranandani is the author of Amil and the AfterVeera Hiranandani, author of the Newbery Honor–winning The Night Diary, earned her MFA in creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She is the author of The Whole Story of Half a Girl, a Sydney Taylor Notable Book and a South Asia Book Award finalist, and How to Find What You’re Not Looking For, winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award and the New York Historical Society Children’s History Book Prize. A former editor at Simon & Schuster, she now teaches in the Writing for Children and Young Adults MFA Program at The Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Photo Credit: David Beinstein


Amazon’s Best Book of the Month (January 2024)

“[A] masterpiece of nuance, vulnerability, and emotional complexity. A quietly brilliant, deeply insightful story of living in uncertain times.” Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Searingly emotional… the fast-paced, multifaceted plot will keep readers engaged while bringing them to a satisfying resolution.” Booklist, starred review


Chapter One

Amil lay stretched out on the daybed in the living room, trying to balance a thick charcoal pencil on the tip of his nose, his sketchbook sitting open on his chest. He finally got the pencil balanced, and it stood proudly, extending into the air.

“Look!” he said to Nisha, trying to keep his head still.

Nisha’s head jerked up from her writing just as the pencil toppled to the ground. She was always writing something. She used to write every day in her diary. Now she wrote secret stories she wouldn’t let anyone see. She stopped writing in her diary because she said it hurt too much to think about the before. She didn’t want to think about the old India—- before their horrible walk across the new border, before Amil almost died and Dadi almost died, before the man with the knife tried to attack Nisha, before they saw what they saw on the train.

“You’re distracting me,” she said when the pencil hit the floor.

“Aw, you missed it,” he said.

“Missed what?” she asked, absorbed in her writing.

“Forget it,” he said, and sighed.

He got up, grabbed the pencil from the cool tile floor, and plunked himself back on the daybed. He decided to draw a quick self-portrait for his mama of what he looked like now. It felt like a message he was sending to her that was somehow different than what she could perhaps see of him in real life.

Amil had never known his mother. She died the day he and Nisha were born, and now, more than twelve years later, his family had traveled far from where his life had briefly connected with hers, one ending and one beginning. Did she wonder where they went—- Amil, Nisha, Papa, Dadi, and Kazi? Or had she somehow traveled with them? Maybe she was just gone, like the way a cloud moved across the sky, changing into something else and eventually disappearing into the atmosphere. He hoped she did watch over them, though. He wanted to show her what it had been like after everything happened, the way Nisha kept a diary written to her about what happened before. He wanted to capture what it felt like when the before became the after the second it went by. It was like catching air.

He liked drawing much better than writing. Writing was not his favorite thing to do, and reading was even harder. Nisha loved his drawings. She said it was like magic, how he could think of a thing and create it on paper so easily. Drawing set his fingers free. It was hot for January, so they stayed out of the sun on this sleepy Thursday afternoon while their dadi wrote her letters and Kazi prepared dinner. Papa did his “paperwork.” Neither Nisha nor Amil knew exactly what that meant, but Papa sure seemed to have a lot of it.

It wasn’t just any old day, though. It was New Year’s Day, January 1, 1948. Last night, on New Year’s Eve, Papa had let them stay up late so they could walk to the pier at Apollo Bunder just before midnight. Amil was surprised that Papa wanted to do this. He never seemed to be in a mood to celebrate anything lately, but something about last night felt different. Even Kazi and Dadi came.

Amil saw a few other people gathered along the harbor, mostly young men and a few families with older children. Two boys around his age were holding sparklers. When Papa’s watch struck midnight, the boys called out, “Happy New Year!” and someone set off a firecracker into the inky sky over the water. He watched the boys’ sparklers light up the harbor and send sprays of gold into the air. He turned and saw Papa, Kazi, Dadi, and Nisha also taking in the glow, their faces bright and happier than he had seen them in a long time. He couldn’t help but think of another midnight, the one last August when the first prime minister of India had announced India’s independence. Amil had heard Prime Minister Nehru on the radio in their old house. He’d only listened to part of the speech because it had gone on and on, and Amil had grown bored. But he’d never forget what Nehru said in the beginning:

At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.

That’s when India became free from British rule, partitioned into two countries, and Pakistan was born. Many people had to flee their homes like Amil’s family did because they weren’t safe anymore. Most Muslims went to Pakistan. Most Hindus, Sikhs, and other non-Muslims went to India, and everyone started fighting and killing one another. Many starved or became ill and died on the journey. Many people did not awaken to life and freedom. This midnight felt different, though. Amil knew it wasn’t anything other than a new year on the calendar, but there was something that did feel like the beginning of a new life. It was so strange to think that only a few months ago they had thought they’d never see another celebration. Now here they were, somehow okay and starting over once more. Nothing could wipe away the past, though.

The partition wasn’t really in the past anyway. Amil saw headlines in Papa’s newspaper and heard reports on All India Radio when Kazi and Dadi listened about people still fleeing over the border and communal riots continuing to happen. He couldn’t always understand everything he read or heard, since it was mostly in English, but he understood enough. He had once seen groups of people coming off the steamship from Karachi at the Alexandra Dock. They looked dazed, squinting into the sun, their bodies limp and tired. He knew how they felt. Papa said there were many refugee camps now for the people who had left Pakistan and didn’t have anywhere to live. Amil had seen the one not too far from their flat in the old military barracks close to Cuffe Parade.

So far, though, their new life in the new India had been peaceful. He hadn’t seen any more fighting with his own eyes. They had their flat and enough food and a school to go to. He probably wasn’t the only one who hoped 1948 would bring better things. He decided to draw a picture of the night before and freeze it forever.

That’s what he hoped to fill his sketchbook with—better things. He first thought about it when one day, back in Jodhpur, Nisha found him sneaking a look at her diary. He had only meant to read the first few pages, but he kept going. It was like watching their lives unfold again. He was a very slow reader. Sometimes the words looked different to him from one day to the next or were hard to sound out in his mind. Reading the diary, though, made him feel like his sister was speaking just to him, and it was his story too. It also made him imagine his mama.

“Amil,” Nisha had said, “why don’t you draw to let out your feelings? That way Mama can see what everything looks like.” As always, she seemed to know what he was thinking.

That’s how it was for them as twins.

“I don’t know,” he said. “What if it doesn’t make sense?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, how will a bunch of pictures make sense like a story?”

“It only matters that it makes sense to you,” Nisha said.

Before he could start his new drawing project for Mama, they had to leave Jodhpur and head to Bombay for Papa’s new job as a substitute for another doctor. Papa’s cousin had written him about the job, and the money was too good to turn down. Amil had put away the drawing idea until a few days ago, when he decided to ask Papa for money to buy a proper sketchbook.

Papa hesitated at first. He told Amil he wanted him to pay more attention in school instead of drawing. That’s what his teachers told him too: that he needed to focus and be serious about his work. No matter how hard he tried or how serious he felt, it didn’t seem to make a difference. A lot of the alphabet looked the same to him. Many of the characters or letters, depending on whether it was Sindhi or English, looked either very similar or like flipped versions of others. Drawing was different. His mind saw the whole thing, every side. When he looked at a ball, it was still a ball no matter which way it turned.

Or, better yet, a scorpion.

Nobody would mistake a scorpion for anything else, no matter which way it faced. Reading and writing were much easier for Nisha, and sometimes this made Amil jealous. Then again, Nisha continued to have trouble talking—not with him or Kazi or Dadi, just with everyone else. She even had trouble with Papa if he was in a strict mood.

Drawing for Mama, though, felt like he was pretending to know her when he didn’t. In fact, it was the way he was born, feet first, that made her die. He knew it wasn’t his fault, because how could he help such a thing? He never knew her, she never knew him, and that gave him a sad, empty feeling. Nisha said it helped her to write to Mama during those horrible days when they had to leave Mirpur Khas. Nisha said if he wanted to try drawing for her, he should.

So here he was, trying. Sometimes, on a calm day like today, he even wondered if their awful journey had really happened. His bad memories wouldn’t let him forget, though. They crept up on him and rippled through his body when he least expected it.

Amil got up and looked out the window at the crowded city street. He missed the wider spaces of their old home in Mirpur Khas. He didn’t mind the buzzing energy he felt here in Bombay, though. In a way, it was an outside that matched his insides more. Maybe they would stay here and maybe they wouldn’t. He had learned that things could change as quickly as a glass of water falling to the floor and smashing to pieces.

He wondered if this was how their lives would always be, suddenly moving from one place to another before something bad happened. All he could do now was show Mama some of these moments, like snapshots from a camera—snapshots of what it was like to start over when your old life had vanished and the road ahead was new and strange and always changing.

He could show her what happened after.