I Am Kavi

Out now from Holiday House

Caught between two worlds—a poverty-stricken village and a fancy big-city school—a young Sri Lankan girl must decide who she really is and where she really belongs.

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A Kid’s Indie Next Title for September/October 2023

A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection

An Indies Introduce Summer/Fall 2023 Title

I Am Kavi - Thushanthi Ponweera
Cover art by Emilia Niwa

ISBN: 9780823453658

Buy a copy of I Am Kavi

The novel, set in the late 1990s, is a superb study of the Sri Lankan class system and the lengths to which someone might go to fit in. A moving coming-of-age story written in verse about understanding and embracing who you truly are.”

The Horn Book, Starred Review

Riveting… Perfectly captures the inner turmoil of a young girl wading her way through the complexity of family, friendship, identity, and emotions.”


Amid a historical setting informed by classism, colorism, and colonization, short reflective phrases and vivid cultural details bring out the nuanced story’s emotional depth and show the devastating impact of war on Kavi and her loved ones.

Publishers Weekly

Told in accessible, economical verse, this novel explores Kavi’s day-to-day struggles against a backdrop of civil war and social inequality. Though her problems at times seem insurmountable, this is ultimately a reassuring story of friendship, family, and finding solutions.

Kirkus Reviews

Thushanthi Ponweera’s powerful debut I AM KAVI features a lush setting, lyrical language, and an unforgettable character. Kavi is a character I connected deeply with from the first lines and rooted for until the end. Kavi’s courage and voice are not to be missed.

Reem Faruqi, award-winning author of Call Me Adnan, Unsettled, and Golden Girl

This book plunged me into the joys and turmoil of 1990s Sri Lanka, bringing with it all the poignancy of that time. Told in verse, I am Kavi is a frequently heart-rending coming of age story of friendship, love, class and war. Kavi is a flawed and lovable heroine I was rooting for throughout. I loved it!

Nizrana Farook, award-winning author of The Girl Who Stole an Elephant

The civil war in Sri Lanka in the 1990s serves as a tense backdrop for this powerfully written coming-of-age novel in verse. Kavi’s struggle to fit in at her elite urban private school as a scholarship student from the war-torn countryside will resonate with readers moving up and dealing with the social pressures and temptations of middle school.

Lyn Miller-Lachmann, Los Angeles Times Book Prize winning author of Torch

With sensual, lyrical poems that are delightfully sprinkled with gentle humor, Ponweera creates  a cast of three dimensional characters and a nuanced plot. Readers will empathize easily with Kavi, the strong yet believably flawed protagonist, who struggles to accept her step-father, moves bravely from her village home to a city school, and makes a few missteps on her journey that ultimately deepen her understanding of friendship and love.

Padma Venkatraman, award-winning author of The Bridge Home, Born Behind Bars, and A Time to Dance