Amita Roy Shah is the author of It’s Time for Holi! Amita is also a consultant for several educational publishing companies, a researcher studying South Asian American women who become teachers, and is the mother of one super-smart kid!
Luckily for me, she was willing to take time out of her hectic schedule to answer some questions about her new book:
Tiny Reader: It’s Time for Holi! is your first children’s book. What inspired you to write a book about Holi?
Amita: The idea of Holi came to me when I was designing a Pre-K curriculum and realized that many Pre-K themes have to do with colors, seasons, and multicultural celebrations. Holi is the Indian festival of colors! People celebrate spring by throwing colors on one another…so I thought to myself, what child wouldn’t want to celebrate spring by throwing colors on their family and friends?!?
Tiny Reader: What’s a common question that children have for you about Indian culture, and how do you address it?
Amita: It’s not really a question but I think children are sometimes confused about the term “Indian." And in the United States the term is used to talk about Native American Indians the most. I think this term causes a lot of confusion, so I always make it a point to say that Holi is a celebration that started in the country of India but is now celebrated everywhere. I think it is also important for children to say “India” out loud and I hope the images from my book will help them develop a better understanding of Indians who are from the country of India.
Tiny Reader: What is your writing process?
Amita: My writing process has always been to write down whatever I am thinking at the moment and develop the structure, format, and language later! This has definitely worked for me. The first couple drafts of this book don’t really have a rhyme or rhythm and are just some ideas about roses, butterflies, birds, colors, and spring. It is funny to look back and see it all now.
Tiny Reader: What do you hope children will learn from reading your book?
Amita: I hope that all children get more exposure to the Indian culture. Throughout the book you will notice subtle images of the culture--such as the jewelry, the dress, the wall hangings, the containers with the colored powders, names of characters, etc. I also hope that children get really excited about spring and celebrating Holi at school or at home. Holi is about getting messy with colors so children can really do any activity that allows for them to make a mess with colors. I am going to have my son make colorful handprints or footprints with paint and throw some colored confetti on us at home. He will also go to a couple Holi celebrations that are taking place in the bay area. The other thing I hope for is that it helps validate the experiences of Indian children living in the United States. I think it is really important for children to see people like them and their families in books.
Tiny Reader: What does your son think about all this?
Amita: This is a great question! So let me give you a little more background. I needed the illustrations to look as realistic as possible--so my illustrator referenced our online family albums to create the characters. The boy in the book looks exactly like my son! So my son is absolutely ecstatic when he sees the book. He says, “Look! It’s the Deven book!” every time he sees it!
Tiny Reader: You are a busy lady—a researcher, a consultant, a mom, a children’s book author. What other projects do you have going on right now?
Amita: I think I thrive on multiple projects, so it’s actually a good thing that I have a lot going on. But I am also fortunate enough to have a flexible schedule that allows for me to prioritize projects so that my son always comes first. So with that, I do what I can when I can. Many people have already expressed an interest in a Diwali book... and I do have some ideas for that, so that might be next! I am also talking to a university about teaching part-time. But again, it all depends on time and scheduling!
Tiny Reader: What are your plans for the book now that it is published?
Amita: I have created a Facebook page, “It’s Time for Holi,” to write about all the latest happenings. But just to give you a couple highlights, I plan to do read-alouds at schools or community centers to get the word out. I just did a reading for children at Teachers College and will be at the Indian Community Center (ICC) this week. In the future, I hope to make a more interactive website for children to play virtual Holi game so children can virtually throw colors and get points! I also want to host a coloring contest during Holi and have children color some of the pages from my book. Those are just some ideas in the works to get children more involved in Holi activities