book review

Same Sun Here by Silas House and Neela Vaswani

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How does one mix the topics of mountain top removal (“MTR”) and immigration into one intelligent read for children ?

Silas House and Neela Vaswani have written a poignant book which deals with both topic seamlessly in Same Sun Here.

Same Sun as Here


This is a tender story about an unlikely friendship between a boy from Kentucky and a girl from India who has recently immigrated to the United States. Through their letters and emails via a pen pal exchange, Meena and River realize they have more in common than not. Both of their fathers are forced to work away from home. They both have grandmothers who mean the world to them and both have true and faithful dogs.

Meena lives in New York City in Chinatown, and River lives in Kentucky coal mining country. With honesty and humor, Meena and River bridge the miles between them and their world views, to create a friendship which inspires and defeats any cultural misconceptions.

Narrated in two voices, each voice written by a talented author, chronicles the lives of two distinctive characters who though very different share their lives under the same sun.

Many years ago I met Silas House at the Appalachian Author Lecture Series which is held at Maryville college each autumn. He was promoting his book Clay’s Quilt at the time. He is such an eloquent writer who captures the heart and minds of his readers. When I saw his name on the cover of Same Sun Here, I bought it with no further investigations. The man does not write a bad book !!!

In the same token, though I haven’t read any other writings of Neela Vaswani, I look forward to reading more from her as she has a very distinctive and honest writing voice which is authentic and inviting. You can find Same Sun Here on Amazon.

You can also read the first chapter free on Neela’s website:

Read the first chapter

Somethings to Do:

Find a Pen Pal!

Students of the World is a safe way for your child to get a pen-pal online or via snail mail. No personal information is exchanged and all is controlled on the actual site.

River’s Reading List

River is an avid reader. Throughout Same Sun Here he mentions his current reads. Thought you might like to take a look as well.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

The Spiderwick Chronicles

Dear Mr. Henshaw


The Outsiders

Love the Dog

Old Yeller

To Kill A Mockingbird

Mountain Top Removal

Mountaintop removal is a relatively new type of coal mining that began in Appalachia in the 1970s as an extension of conventional strip mining techniques. Primarily, mountaintop removal is occurring in West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee. Coal companies in Appalachia are increasingly using this method because it allows for almost complete recovery of coal seams while reducing the number of workers required to a fraction of what conventional methods require.


The US Environmental Protection Agency defines mountaintop removal as follows:

“Mountaintop removal/valley fill is a mining practice where the tops of mountains are removed, exposing the seams of coal. Mountaintop removal can involve removing 500 feet or more of the summit to get at buried seams of coal. The earth from the mountaintop is then dumped in the neighboring valleys.” is the product of 14 local, state, and regional organizations across Appalachia that are working together to end mountaintop removal coal mining and create a prosperous future for the region.

After reading Same Sun Here we wanted to investigate into MTR further and watched a documentary called Last Mountain. This movie is haunting when you see the destruction that is being done to our mountains and planet.  I would recommend this film for 11 and above. It is imperative that you have a discussion about the movie and what you witnessed. How does it make you feel and what can be done about it ?

Here’s a poem that Meena’s father use to sing to her. She sent this to River in a letter:

“Come,rise, my brothers and sisters,

Save this mountain

Come plant new tress, new forests,

Decorate the Earth.


Meena’s Favorite Indian Meal


Chawal (rice)

Kala dal (Black Lentils)

Raita ( Yogurt)

Spicy Mango Pickles

Sitaphal (fruit)


The above is a general Indian meal. Each item such a chawal or kala dal can be made into a variety of recipes. Please feel free to look for others. Indian cooking is vast and wonderful. There is lots to explore.

Meena Speaks Hindi, You Can Too


Kid Zone

Meena Reads

Roll of Thunder Here My Cry

David Cooperfield

The Wind in the Willows

Could You Become an American?

Meena’s family throughout Same Sun Here is studying for their American Immigration test. Here are just a few questions that are on the immigration test. See if you can answer them. In the back of the book there are several more questions for you to answer.

  1. Name one war fought by the United States in the 1900s.
  2. What did Susan B. Anthony do ?
  3. What is one thing Benjamin Franklin is famous for ?
  4. There are thirteen original states. Name three.
  5. In what year was the Constitution written?

Discussion Questions

Candlewick Press has created this wonderful and insightful discussion guide which goes along with Same Sun Here.

Appalachian Mountains

5 thoughts on “Same Sun Here by Silas House and Neela Vaswani

    1. It is an unusual combination but works perfectly. The book grabbed our attention and we enjoyed it so much. Thanks for stopping by !!!

  1. This book is a wonderful audio listen. Each author reads their own character. I have laughed and I have cried.
    This is a wonderful page about the book and topics. Meena also read “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.”

  2. I didn’t know about Mountain Top Removal mining. I didn’t realize they were doing this. I didn’t think there was a huge demand for coal anymore. Thanks for sharing this important topic and book at the Multicultural Children’s Book Day link up!

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