Books by Uma Krishnaswami

Released: May 1, 2017

"A loving look at a slice of American life new to children's books. (Historical fiction. 9-13)"
Krishnaswami offers a peek into the life of Maria Singh and her loving family in Yuba City, California, in 1945. Read full book review >
BOOK UNCLE AND ME by Uma Krishnaswami
Released: Sept. 13, 2016

"Yasmin's campaign should help inspire young readers to believe in their own potential to make a difference and teach the valuable lesson that sometimes it takes several small actions to make big moves. (Fiction. 8-11)"
When her source of books is threatened, so is 9-year-old Yasmin's goal of reading a book a day "forever." Read full book review >
BRIGHT SKY, STARRY CITY by Uma Krishnaswami
Released: May 12, 2015

"A mildly agenda-driven companion to the less-cosmic likes of John Rocco's Blackout (2011) or Jonathan Bean's intimate At Night (2007). (bibliography, glossary) (Picture book. 6-8)"
A nighttime power outage transforms a young urban sky watcher's frustration to joy. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 13, 2013

"Bits of Indian culture and Bollywood drama add delicious undertones to this confection, a treat for middle-grade readers. (Fiction. 9-12)"
Best friends Dini and Maddie and Bollywood movie star Dolly Singh, from Krishnaswami's The Grand Plan to Fix Everything (2011), return for a breathless dance through Washington, D.C. Read full book review >
Released: March 12, 2013

"A must. (author's note, publisher's note) (Picture book. 5-10)"
Text that sings like poetry narrates a gorgeous re-envisioning of "Thumbelina." Read full book review >
OUT OF THE WAY! OUT OF THE WAY! by Uma Krishnaswami
Released: April 1, 2012

"A lovely, unique contribution. (Picture book. 4-8)"
A boy in India sees a baby tree growing by the side of a dusty path, and, because he protects it, it flourishes throughout his lifetime despite the changes to the landscape around him. Read full book review >
Released: May 24, 2011

Hooray for Bollywood. Eleven-year-old Dini is not pleased at all at the prospect of leaving Takoma Park, Md., and her best friend Maddie to live in a small town in southern India for two years. But though she knows it's ridiculous, bakvaas, as Indians say, she wonders if she might get to meet her idol, Dolly Singh, Bollywood film star. Dini and Maddie are devoted Dolly fans. And, in a series of events as wonderfully convoluted and satisfyingly resolved as any movie plot could be, she does. The fast-paced tale introduces and manages to connect an Indian-American family, a postal worker from Mumbai, a movie producer and his erratic star, a car mechanic, a tea plantation owner, a local baker and assorted monkeys—all coming together for a grand finale party and dance. Set in imagined Swapnagiri (which means Dream Mountain), this high-energy concoction is thoroughly believable and entertaining. The story is told in a third-person present-tense voice that rings true to its protagonist, who sees her life as a movie script. Though Dini and Maddie are halfway around the world from each other, they communicate through cell phones and computer chat, keeping up their friendship while making new ones. Full of references to Bollywood movie traditions and local customs, this is a delightful romp with a fresh setting and a distinctive and appealing main character. (Fiction. 9-13) Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2007

A bit of a departure for Krishnaswami, who here gently tells the tale of losing a grandparent, using anthropomorphized bunnies as her subjects. Little Daysha's grandmother is having difficulty overcoming the sadness of her loss. Daysha doesn't equate the feeling of sadness when remembering her beloved grandfather so she goes off to find a cure for the grieving widow. She goes through nature, finding odds and ends that remind her of Grandpa; she gathers them all and shows them to her Grandma. They both have a good, cleansing cry and things seem better for both generations. Johnson is a good match, having illustrated many picture books about the elderly. He uses unusual perspectives to show actions, which invite the viewer to become part of the story. His gauzy oil paintings have areas with great detail, while other parts of the page feature swathes of color. While there is nothing unique here, the treatment is particularly lovely and will be a welcome addition to the shelves of titles on this topic. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
BRINGING ASHA HOME by Uma Krishnaswami
Released: Sept. 15, 2006

On Rakhi Day in August, Arun explains the Indian holiday to his best friend Michael and tells him that it celebrates the bond of brothers and sisters. Arun wishes he had a sister, and in October, his parents tell him that they are going to adopt a baby girl named Asha from his father's birthplace, India. Arun loves making paper airplanes and pretends that they are flying his sister home to him. As the months come and go, pictures arrive in the mail, but telephone calls let the family know that the paperwork is not yet through. Finally, during the summer, the letter the family has been waiting for arrives. Arun's dad flies off to pick Asha up, carrying with him a colorful airplane Arun has made for his new sister. Father and daughter arrive home with a special gift for Arun—a rakhi, a special bracelet for him to wear on Rakhi Day. Appealing illustrations and warm, clear text make this story of a biracial family—Arun's mother is white and his father is Indian—and international adoption a good choice for any collection. (author's note) (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
THE CLOSET GHOSTS by Uma Krishnaswami
Released: April 1, 2006

Faced with the universal fear of finding a welcoming place, Anu must rid her new home of the ghosts that are in her closet, as well as find friendship with her new classmates. Comforted by the promise of help from Hanuman (an important figure in Hindu mythology), she ultimately realizes that she will have to find the solution herself. She settles on a plan that changes a scary place into one that is friendly and welcoming, and the ghosts can't stand it anymore. Bhabha's color-drenched paintings perfectly complement Krishnaswami's tale that incorporates a contemporary setting with the tradition of the Hindu Monkey God. The ghosts ("with backward pointing feet") are outlined in white, but wear brightly colored clothing over nearly transparent bodies, and Bhabha's visualization of the Monkey God is perfect. A unique tale that is worthy of a wide audience. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
THE HAPPIEST TREE by Uma Krishnaswami
Released: Sept. 15, 2005

Meena and her classmates decide to produce a play, and to her dismay, Meena has difficulty focusing. She spills the paints, she stumbles and trips, and when she tells her parents that she really isn't interested in performing or participating, her father assures her that she's alright. With the encouragement from her caring, patient parents, teacher and aunt, who introduces her to yoga, Meena plays the role of a tree. She must stand still, and the deep breathing she has learned in yoga calms her down. Painterly acrylic forms convey nuances of Indian culture and Meena's facial and body contortions as she learns her roles on stage and in yoga class. Krishnaswami aptly conveys the essence and impact of yoga on a child. Youngsters often struggling to keep their little bodies from wriggling, their attention from drifting, will be comforted to know that they are not unique and that something as basic as breathing and yoga incorporated into a kid's life can be a practical solution. Backmatter includes additional information about yoga and resources for children. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
NAMING MAYA by Uma Krishnaswami
Released: April 6, 2004

In a narrative redolent of spices, an American-born Indian girl sorts out memory and identity in the house of her grandfather. The day after they arrive in India from New Jersey, the family's ancient cook arrives to take care of them; a character in the truest sense of the word, Mami nevertheless begins to exhibit behavior that makes Maya think there may be something more going on than simple eccentricity. Maya's concerns are complicated by her own grief at her parents' divorce; she cannot trust her busy mother with Mami's secrets. Maya's first-person, present-tense narrative brings her grandfather's southern India town vividly to hot, dusty, crowded, vibrant life. Her heritage swirls around her as she strengthens her relationship with her extended Indian family, worries about Mami, and puzzles through her reactions to the dissolution of her family. Krishnaswami has a little too much going on here—a subplot involving Maya's father's family never develops as thoroughly as it should—but her language is lush and Maya's observations are piercingly honest. Both setting and protagonist are entirely memorable, and difficult to leave behind. (Fiction. 10-14)Read full book review >
MONSOON by Uma Krishnaswami
Released: Oct. 6, 2003

Richly colored illustrations and lyrical text portray a girl and her family in India waiting for the monsoon season to begin. "[G]ravelly, grainy, gritty dust" blows on the wind and won't stop until the rains come. The level of anticipation is so high that every engine rumble sounds like thunder. A koel (songbird) sings "in a voice like melting sunshine," and heat waves "dance upon rocks and shimmer over rooftops." Sometimes the viewpoint is angled upward to emphasize the sky's importance. Saturated colors fill every bit of every page (there's no white space at all), fully conveying the hot, dusty air and the sense of impatience. When the "stretching, sweeping sheet of rain" finally arrives, the girl and her brother dance joyously in the street. An expressive story about seasons, extremes, and waiting. (glossary, author's note) (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
CHACHAJI’S CUP by Uma Krishnaswami
Released: April 15, 2003

A china teacup serves as both a memento of troubled times and a bridge across generations in this unusual family portrait. For as long as young Neel can remember, his great-uncle Chachaji has used only his own mother's old cup at teatime. Why? Because it has a history; his mother's family was among the many that were displaced when India was "broken" into two countries in 1947, and though she had to leave much behind, she chose to take the fragile cup on the long journey to a new home. Using strong brushwork and deep, rich colors, Sitaraman centers most of her scenes on dark, expressive faces, placing Neel's extended family in this country, and with dress and other details subtly suggesting the mingling of cultures such families experience. Doubly valuable for its overall theme, and as a surprisingly rare depiction of an Indian-American family, Neel's story is bound to engage readers, as well as leave them more receptive to learning about their own families' past. (Picture book. 7-9)Read full book review >
Released: March 31, 1999

In this worthy anthology, Krishnaswami (The Broken Tusk, 1996) has collected and retold 18 traditional tales which originated in the Indian subcontinent, all with female protagonists. Many of these simply told stories feature a heroine who must stand up for her beliefs. The tales will fascinate those accustomed to European stories, for the heroines—instead of ending up with the guy and the gold—are frequently rewarded in less tangible ways, often gaining a measure of spiritual enlightenment. In one tale, a young princess comes to realize that strength and duty are more important than looks and marriage; in another, a group of royal ladies endure physical deprivation, eventually convincing the Buddha that they have the spiritual wherewithal to become disciples. Krishnaswami, selecting these stories from myriad sources—ancient literature, Hindu and Buddhist mythology, folktales and legends—demonstrates genuine passion for the material; every story is followed by a helpful note that provides context and cites sources. More edifying than exciting, but often intriguing, these stories comprise a worthwhile resource. (b&w illustrations, glossary, sources) (Folklore. 11-14) Read full book review >
THE BROKEN TUSK by Uma Krishnaswami
Released: Aug. 15, 1996

Krishnaswami's retellings of Hindu myths from India about the elephant-headed god, Ganesha, which include variants of tales heard in childhood or found in later research, make an elegant and eminently readable volume that's a vital addition to any multicultural shelf. Useful prefatory sections on the whole of Hindu mythology point out that the stories continue to be living cultural and spiritual entities in a way that tales from Greek or Norse mythologies are not, aiming to inculcate a way of life that includes ideas from the Hindu faith. The focus on Ganesha happily clarifies the swirling complexity of Hindu tradition while also enabling readers to empathize with this most likable and humorous god. The question that springs immediately to many readers' minds- -why an elephant's head?—is entertainingly addressed in the first tale, along with the notions of reincarnation and filial responsibility. The latter notion expands in the next story, a clever narrative dealing with the relationship of child to parent. The book also includes one tale, ``The Birth of Phagpa,'' from the Buddhist tradition of Mongolia. Throughout, black-and-white illustrations depict Ganesha's childlike charm, even when he's under duress or stress, or in the throes of heartbreak. This book opens perceptual doors to a great and still vital Eastern tradition—a gift indeed. (pronunciation guide, lists of characters and Ganesha's names, glossary, sources) (Fiction/folklore. 10+) Read full book review >
STORIES OF THE FLOOD by Uma Krishnaswami
Released: Nov. 1, 1994

Newcomer Krishnaswami has adapted these great-flood tales with little regard for maintaining the distinctive qualities of each culture represented. There are, of course, variations in the details of the stories: In the Hindu legend, the god Vishnu takes the form of a fish that grows and grows until a holy man realizes who the fish is, and Vishnu warns the man of the coming flood; in the Hawaiian tale, the sea-folk come in search of their sister who has married a human and cause a tidal wave, but she begs them to return to the ocean. The stories are, however, so short and blandly told that they seem merely repetitive. Without nuance, these tales are as common as the Noah story, which is absent from this collection. SÑflund's fine illustrations provide the only cultural variation in the book. These tellings of deluge stories from many cultures are surprisingly—dry. (Stories/Folklore. 6-12) Read full book review >