Title: Stories Of The Flood
Author: Uma Krishnaswami
Illustrator: Birgitta Saflund
Publisher: Roberts Rinehart Publishers
Ages: 6 - 12
(Image courtesy Amazon.com)
How was Earth formed?
How did humans come to be what we are today?
As a species, are we alone out there?
What happens when mankind lives in disharmony? Is there a higher power that enforces a kind of control system? Has the process of evolution from apes to man happened before?
These are timeless questions that exist in every culture.
I grew up hearing stories of the different avatars of Vishnu, the protector in the holy trinity. Hindu mythology talks about how Vishnu incarnated in to the human world in order to save the world from increasing evil. The fun with these stories is that, setting aside the religious context and all impending implication that the world might be wiped out to start clean if we do not get our act together, every person can make their own interpretation. To me the different avatars, in the order stated, signifies the process of evolution. The fish signifies that there was once nothing but water and life originated from water. The tortoise capable of living on land and water signifies the formation of land. Next comes the boar, a mammal that lives entirely on land. The half lion, half human avatar of Vishnu, that can walk upright, shows slow evolution in to human beings and so on. And this perspective is what I highlight in my story telling sessions at home.
With the existence of the same kind of questions and story tellers in all cultures, the natural progression is to have different stories on the same subject. One such example is the existence of stories of the great deluge from across the world.
Whether the deluge really happened and the devastation was so great that it scattered people to different corners of the world, no one will never know. What we know is that different interpretations of the flood myth exists and this is the point highlighted by Uma in her first children’s book, Stories Of The Flood.
If you have grown up hearing one flood story, it is one idea from one person’s home culture. But when similar stories are placed side by side as a collection the thinking of the collective certainly fascinates me.
The book is intended for 6+ year old children. It appeals to the almost six year old at home who is at the cusp of egocentric thought and shows signs of concrete thinking and the six year old in me. We both like to start off with the Matsya story, the third in the collection and work our way forward or backward as our mood dictates. The very fact that it is a collection of short stories with a common theme and breath taking, beautiful, full page illustration makes it appealing for my four year old as well. When I read to her, she follows the stories with out being lost and of course bombards me with questions .... and more questions.