Saturday, August 31, 2013

Small Actions by Uma Krishnaswami - Guest Post - August 2013

Krishnaswami, Uma. Problem with Being Slightly Heroic, The. Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon and Schuster), 2013. 288p. $16.99. 9781442423282.

Read on and find out how you don't have to be the main character to keep the story moving. Also, take a sneak peak at Alana, Ollie, and Chef!

Small Actions That Count: 
The Role of Alana 
The Problem With Being Slightly Heroic

Romantic love played a larger-than-life part in The Grand Plan to Fix Everything, in Dolly’s disarrayed love life, but it also had a smaller, quieter place in the characters of Lal the postman and his wife Lila. They were a kind of glue that held the story together. Lal carried the letters back and forth, but it was Lila who gave him the support and courage to speak up at the moments when that was needed. Lal and Lila, of course, could not travel to the United States for the grand opening of Dolly’s movie in The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic. As I wrote the second book, it became clear to me that their places needed to be filled.

Because of Dini’s fan letter, and Lal’s job, mail and the delivery of mail was very important in The Grand Plan. A cake and catering took up that spot in the second book, so it was only natural that the related action of this subplot would shift from post offices in India to the kitchen of an irascible chef in Washington, DC.

Enter Alana. She’s the sous chef. She’s competent, ambitious, and sensible. Dini, our protagonist, is in awe of her. Ollie the line cook—well to paraphrase a poem of a couple of centuries ago, Ollie laughs with delight at Alana’s smile and trembles with fear at her frown. He recognizes in Dini a kind of Alana-in-progress. Like Lal and Lila, Ollie and Alana are a team, and the fact that they’re falling head over heels in love is something our young characters are keeping a sharp eye on as well. Plot-wise, this resonates with Dolly’s Bollywood movies and offers Dini a kind of real-life envisioning of something yet to come in her own life, something magical and grownup and nearly impossible.
Alana with Ollie and the Chef

Alana is very much the glue that holds Ollie together, but she’s also the one who can speak truth to the bad-tempered chef, which in turn allows him to change and grow. Who but Alana would have the courage to meet Dolly’s unusual meal requests, combining ingredients that would surely outrage the chef? She’s the character who helps the slight heroics of the book gain momentum, becoming a dance of small actions that count.

About the Author
Uma Krishnaswami is the author of several books for children, including the first story featuring Dini,
Maddie, and Dolly, The Grand Plan to Fix Everything. She is also on the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Ms. Krishnaswami was born in New Delhi, India, and now lives in Aztec, New Mexico. To learn more, visit her website:

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