Boys without Names

Publisher: Balzer and Bray (An imprint of HarperCollins Publishers); 2010

Boys Without Names by Kashmira Sheth

For eleven-year-old Gopal and his family, life in their rural Indian village is over: We stay, we starve, his baba has warned. So they must flee to the big city of Mumbai in hopes of finding work and a brighter future. Gopal is eager to help support his struggling family until school starts, so when a stranger approaches him with the promise of a factory job, he jumps at the offer.

But Gopal has been deceived. There is no factory but, instead, a small, stuffy sweatshop, where he and five other boys are forced to make beaded frames for no money and little food. The boys are forbidden to talk or even to call one another by their real names. In this atmosphere of distrust and isolation, locked in a rundown building in an unknown part of the city, Gopal despairs of ever seeing his family again.

Then, late one night when Gopal decides to share kahanis, or stories, he realizes that storytelling might be the boys' key to holding on to their sense of self and their hope for any kind of future. If he can make them feel more like brothers than enemies, their lives will be more bearable in the shop—and they might even find a way to escape.

Boys without Names Discussion Guide

Hear how Kashmira pronouces her characters' names


Foreign translation



Publisher's Weekly: "Sheth's lush prose creates a vivid portrait of slave labor without losing the thread of hope that Gopal clings to." Booklist: "As Gopal dreams of escape, he builds tenuous friendships with his fellow workers. Those wary bonds form a dramatic counterpoint to the children's daily misery, described in moving, palpable detail, and skillfully steer the story away from docu-novel territory to its hopeful conclusion. Pair this eye-opening title with Susan Kuklin's Iqbal Masih and the Crusaders against Child Slavery (1998)". — Gillian Engberg

School Library Journal: "……..well-told survival story with a social conscience". – Kathleen Isaacs, Children's Literature Specialist, Pasadena, MD 

 BookPage: "Adroitly contrasting the rich sensory detail of Gopal's village life and the sensory deprivation of his factory life, Sheth has created a story worthy of her storytelling protagonist."

Flamingnet Top Choice: "Boys Without Names is a superb book. The characters are so real, and the material is raw. Once I read the first fifteen pages I was hooked, and couldn't put it down. It seemed like I was one of the boys as their emotions poured out onto the page." - Flamingnet Student Book Reviewer APB (Reviewer age: 13)

From Richiespicks: "This story about story has me recalling why it is that I so dearly love sharing books, why I so often seek out and always enjoy hearing other people's stories, and why I get such a kick out of telling my own."

Susan Uhlig's review: "Don't miss it! I know I'll be rereading it." 

From Lindsey's library: "I feel as if I am also one of those boys without names, working in the sweatshop, and through their experience of creating family and bonds, and reminded fondly of my own childhood...It was everything I was hoping for and more, and I recommend that everyone read it."

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Awards, Honors, Prizes
  • A Junior Library Guild Selection
  • Alan's Picks, 2010
  • Chicago Public Library: Best of the Best Reading List 2010
  • YALSA: Hidden Gems of 2010
  • Semicolon's Twelve Best Middle Grade Fiction Books of 2010
  • Missourian Book Buzz Picks 2010
  • Cybils Nominee Middle Grade Fiction 2010
  • Nominated for Troybery Award 2011
  • Nominated for Maine Student Book Award 2011-2012
  • WEMTA Battle of the Books 2011
  • Selected for Read On Wisconsin!

What I'm working on now...

Right now I am working on an immigrant story. Like Boys Without Names, it is a story about a young boy and his journey.