Out of the Way! Out of the Way!, written by Uma Krishnaswami and illustrated by Uma Krishnaswamy
Review by Pooja Makhijani
Out of the Way! Out of the Way!, written by Uma Krishnaswami and illustrated by Uma Krishnaswamy, is a delightful tale about a sapling that grows into a tree, a village that grows into a big city, and a little boy who grows into a man.
(Yes, there are two Uma Ks! Uma Krishnaswami (with an "i") is a New Mexico-based author of a number of picture books and novels for children and a writing teacher. She can also be found meditating on the craft for writing for young readers at her blog, Writing with a Broken Tusk. Uma Krishnaswamy (with a "y") is a Chennai-based illustrator who draws inspiration from folk and other forms of art from India. Of course, Krishnaswami and Krishnaswamy read the same in Hindi, one of the eight Indian languages that Out of the Way! Out of the Way! has been translated into. Hindi is written phonetically and doesn't have the spelling "quirks" of English. But more on all that in a moment.)
Out of the Way! Out of the Way! is a simple story about a little boy who makes space for a tree on a dusty path in a village somewhere in India, even while mango sellers and bullock-cart men tell the little boy to move "out of the way." Over time the path becomes a road and the tree becomes home to a pair of crows, food for squirrels and parakeets, and a meeting-place for children and grownups. The tree is now big enough to make people move out of its way!
Krishnaswami has created an entertaining story for children, who will love to shout the refrain, "out of the way! out of the way!," and adults, who will appreciate the conservationist message. Krishnaswamy's color-drenched illustrations are eye-catching and detailed. Young readers will enjoy spotting human footprints and animal tracks along the ever-winding village road or identifying the taxis and trucks and tractors that make their way through the city.
Out of the Way! Out of the Way! is published by Tulika Books, an Indian independent publishing house committed to multilingual publishing. This book is available in English, Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Telugu, Marathi, Gujarati, and Bengali through Tulika's website. The various versions are perfect for young "heritage language learners" in the United States and elsewhere. I know I would've loved the Hindi version of Out of the Way! Out of the Way! when I was learning the language as a child. The jaunty refrain in Hindi is "raastaa choro," literally "let go of the road," and evokes the journey of the boy, the tree, and the village. You can hear the opening of Out of the Way! Out of the Way! in Hindi, Bengali, and Tamil, read by Uma Krishnaswami's 81-year-old mother here.
Pooja Makhijani is a New York City-based writer, editor, and educator. She learned the word for "squirrel" from the Hindi version of Out of the Way! Out of the Way!