Uma Krishnaswami’s latest middle grade novel is The Grand Plan to Fix Everything, published in 2011 by Atheneum to starred reviews from Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly. Uma is the author of over a dozen books for children, including picture books, Monsoon, Chachaji’s Cup, The Closet Ghosts, and Bringing Asha Home, an earlier middle grade novel, Naming Maya, and easy readers, Yoga Class and Holi. Uma’s poems and short stories from pre-school to YA have been published in Highlights for Children and magazines of the Cricket group. Her books have been picked for CCBC Choices, Parent’s Choice, IRA Notable Books for a Global Society and other honors. Her picture book, Chachaji’s Cup was turned into a musical, Tea with Chachaji, and performed in New York and San Francisco in 2010. Uma is a long-time member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, DC. In addition to her writing and speaking, she reviews children’s books for CLCD, and is on the faculty of the Vermont College MFA Program in Writing for Children & Young Adults.
The Grand Plan to Fix Everything
Illustrated by Abigail Halpin
Dini is a huge fan of Dolly Singh and her Bollywood movies, and so is her very best friend, Maddie, because “best friends share everything.” Their plan to attend a Bollywood dance camp in Maryland is crushed when Dini’s mother learns she has been offered a grant to work in Swapnagiri, India for two years. Is it coincidence or chance that Dolly is staying in Swapnagiri? Dini plots to meet Dolly and find out why she was so sad in her last movie. She learns that it is not easy to make life perfect as she copes with monkeys on the roof and at the Dreamycakes Bakery, and meets a girl who can mimic bird sounds. Krishnaswami unfolds this story in the third person, present tense, just as if the reader were watching a movie. It reinforces Dini’s hopes of writing a script, and carries the movie-making theme throughout the book. Light-hearted and dotted with bits of wisdom throughout, readers will discover how friendship can withstand long-distance separations, and the importance of staying focused on the big picture and not giving up. Readers will smile as events bring the engaging and amusing characters together in Swapnagiri (translated means Dream Mountain) and these characters revel in their own hopes and dreams. Halpin’s pen and ink drawings throughout the book depict expressive characters and help establish the Indian setting. Recommended for anyone who loves movies and for best friends everywhere. 2011, Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, Ages 8 to 12, $16.99. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo (Children’s Literature).
Out of the Way! Out of the Way!
Illustrated by Uma Krishnaswamy
This author from New Mexico and illustrator from Chennai, India, share the same name and have always wanted to see their names together in a book. Now their small dream comes to life in a book with a big idea. This is an endearing, poetic story of a boy who protects a new tree in the middle of a dusty path that becomes a busy urban thoroughfare over time; but the tree grows to nourish wildlife in its branches and people who pass under it: “As the tree became a meeting-place, the street became a road.” Brightly colored folk art and simple line drawings fill the pages as the words “out of the way” sprawl wildly along the increasingly busy road. The boy grows up, still remembering stories from the days before the road. “[S]ometimes the drivers of cars and buses and trucks and vans and tractors stop and stay a while . . . and listen.” Art and story together enable the youngest children to grasp the ethic of conservation and the value of nurturing a little bit of nature in an unnatural world. The illustrations reflect Indian culture but offer similarities to cities everywhere, right up to the satellite dish on the roof of a house. This book is rich with possibility, from encouraging the youngest children to find particular objects on the busy pages to generating discussions with older youngsters about the value of trees, conservation, and listening. 2010, Tulika Publishers, $6.50. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Karen Leggett (Children’s Literature).
Illustrated by Soumya Sitaraman
In Chachaji’s Cup, Neel loves helping his great-uncle prepare tea. Often while slurping tea from a faded china cup, the older man will tell of his boyhood in India. Only once does he share the story behind the teacup, which his family carried to a new home in 1947. During this time of the Partition, borders were drawn. Hindus resettled in India and Muslims in Pakistan. More than 12 million people were uprooted, according to the informative author’s note in the back. This must-read by Uma Krishnaswami celebrates family across generations and acquaints young readers with an important and little-known time in world history. Krishnaswami leavens her text with gentle humor as the American-born Neel giggles with Chachaji over Hindi rental videos and tries to make amends when he accidentally breaks the precious cup. Soumya Sitaraman’s vibrant paintings swirl across the pages, making Chachaji’s past as real to Neel as the boy’s own present. 2003, Children’s Book Press, $16.95. Ages 5 to 9. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum (Children’s Literature).
Lively presentations enhanced by rich audio-visuals. K-12 and beyond. Uma shares her writing journey with young people in a personal and meaningful way, making connections around childhood experiences and stories that reflect the commonness of being human in a changing world. Her presentations, like her books, are both uniquely specific and yet universally relevant.
- Thinking in Pictures
- Sounds and Stories from India
- Stretching Your Body and Your Words
- Many Windows
- Teaching the Craft
: Picture books and where their stories came from
: Mix of traditional stories and contemporary images
: Yoga stretches and list poems constructed together
: Collaborative writing workshop
: For teachers, librarians, adult writers
Fees are negotiable, with discounts offered for multiple day bookings. Travel and lodging to be covered by sponsoring event.
To learn more about Uma and her publications please visit www.umakrishnaswami.com.