Out of the Way! Out of the Way!
written by Uma Krishnaswami, illustrated by Uma Krishnaswamy
(Tulika Books, 2010 / Groundwood, 2012)
Selected for the USBBY Outstanding International Book List 2013
Out of the Way! Out of the Way! is the first collaboration between similarly-named author and illustrator team Uma Krishnaswami and Uma Krishnaswamy. In this delightful picture book, a small gesture has enormous consequences through future generations when a small boy finds a tree seedling in the middle of a path and puts some stones around it to protect it. As time goes by, the tree grows and becomes a landmark, a meeting-place. The path changes its course to go round the tree. It becomes a road and then a major thoroughfare, with urban spread growing up around it. Meanwhile, we see the boy become a young man, a father and a grandfather.
What makes this book so effective, though, is that while the boy and the tree are protagonists, they are not always the central focus of the narrative, so the onus is also on young readers/listeners to find and follow their stories for themselves.
The simple text carries a depth of meaning, while much that is unsaid is conveyed through the illustrations. Young readers will pore over the pictures, which contextualize the story in its Indian setting and show nature and development growing together. They will enjoy picking out details of who is traveling along the road, and how the landscape is changing. The combination of color and black and white vignettes is particularly effective: it both emphasizes the vibrancy of the palette and allows for details in pattern and outline.
Out of the Way! Out of the Way! is a wonderful book for introducing young children to the notion of the passage of time – both backwards through history, and forwards into the future. They will both gain insight into Indian culture and be able to compare what they discover with their own environment. Out of the Way! Out of the Way! provides a vehicle (no pun intended!) for exploring big questions in a fun, enticing way.