Uma Krishnaswami, whose name you have seen on many reviews in the Children's Literature newsletter, is fascinated with stories and storytelling. A native of India, Uma lived in the north mountains near Kashmir due to her father's work with the government. People there told stories--storytelling was a matter of everyday life, and the stories addressed life's events. As an only child, reading was an important part of her life-there wasn't any TV and she does not remember a time when she wasn't engaged in reading and writing. Most of what she read was English literature including books by Enid Blyton and A. A. Milne. She dearly loved Winnie the Pooh, and was transported back into her childhood when she reread the stories to her son.
The University at New Delhi represented a major step in leaving home. There Uma studied political science and minored in literature, but she didn't want to be a professor or to be in literary criticism, so she went into social work. After obtaining a Master's degree, Uma took a position at a child guidance center for a year. She then decided to undertake graduate work in the US to become a vocational rehabilitation specialist. Before leaving, she married and the newlywed couple came to the US. In 1987, her son was born and she rediscovered the world of children's books. Uma also developed an interest in curricula--how reading and writing were being taught--and became a teacher at the Writer's Center.
She had been compiling a number of flood stories because they fascinated her. Her first book, Stories of the Flood, was published in 1994 by Roberts Rinehart (Ages 5 to 12, $15.95). Next came The Broken Tusk, a collection of stories about the god Ganesha published by Linnet in 1996 (Ages 9 up, $19.95). Her next book Shower of Gold is a collection of stories about Indian girls. Uma firmly believes that good stories can succeed in making the "other" seem less exotic and hopes that the stories that she tells will resonate with all children.
Contributor: Marilyn Courtot
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ReviewsThe Broken Tusk: Stories of the Hindu God Ganesha
Illustrated by Maniam Selven
Ganesha, the elephant headed god, is the perfect choice to introduce Hindu mythology. He is not fearsome. He is fun loving, a god who removes obstacles from people's paths. This wonderful collection comes from the author's recollection of stories from her childhood and subsequent extensive research. The words of the reteller are rich in imagery; her words flow like the Ganga. These tales reveal the pantheon of Hindu gods, provide an understanding for certain rituals, and teach lessons that are valid in all cultures. In addition, there is a pronunciation guide, a partial list of the 108 names Ganesha is known by, an annotated listing of the characters, and source notes. This is a vast mythology, and the author has whetted our appetites for more. 1996, Linnet, Ages 8 up, $19.95. Reviewer: Charles Wyman
Shower of Gold: Girls and Women in the Stories of India
Illustrated by Maniam Selven
In Shower of Gold, Uma Krishnaswami provides a fascinating glimpse of India through the stories of women and girls. In the title story the goddess Lakshmi transforms a poor but generous-hearted woman's sour gooseberry into fistfuls of gold. In "Savitri and the God of Death" a plucky princess matches wits with the god who wishes to take her young husband's life. Each story includes endnotes in which the author, who was born and raised in India, provides information on her research into and personal connection with the tale. 1999, Linnet, Ages 10 up, $19.95. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum
Stories of the Flood
Illustrated by Brigitta Saflund
Although most of us are very familiar with the story of Noah and the Ark, this collection of folk tales presents nine other flood stories from a variety of traditions, including Indian, Hawaiian, and Liberian, in a picture book format. The tales are each two or three pages long and feature characters like sea-folk, giant fish, and a gentle Moon Goddess. A colorful, large drawing plus two smaller illustrations enhance each story. A short introduction discusses elements that the tales have in common, and also some of their differences. 1994, Roberts Rinehart, Ages 5 to 12, $15.95. Reviewer: Gisela Jernigan
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