Title: Shiva’s Fire
Author(s): Suzanne Fisher Staples
Cover Art: Hala Wittwer
Publisher and Year: Harper Collins, 2000
Number of pages: 276
Genre: Fiction, Fable.
Descriptive Annotation: Shiva’s Fire is about a girl named Parvati who is born to dance. The book takes place in India. Parvati can remember everything from the time of her birth. At the beginning of the book, Parvati is born during a terrible Monsoon, which results in a Flood, food is scarce and her village is destroyed, which many of the villagers blame on Parvati. As Parvati grows up the other village children shun her because strange things happen around her; animals are drawn to Parvati and music will play when she is around fire. One day, Parvati is near a woodpile and a Cobra tries to get near her, however Parvati dances around the Cobra and escapes. This story travels far and a famous dance instructor comes to see Parvati. The instructor takes Parvati to his school and in return Parvati’s family receives money. Parvati flourishes at the dance school and makes friends for the first time. When the Raja decides to have a large festival, Parvati is invited to dance. At the palace, Parvati meets the Yuvaraja (prince) and they discover that they have many similarities- they were both born on the same day, both were blamed for the terrible destruction when they were born, and both have strange gifts. The book end with a cliffhanger in which Parvati must decide if she should go to America and start a dance school with the Yuvaraja or stay in India and dance with her instructor.
Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This book includes a ton of Indian culture. The book uses many Indian words (there is a glossary at the end of the book). Shiva’s Fire also includes lots of information about Hindu gods, Indian Dance, Ghandi, the socio-economic system in India, and even has sections describing Indian foods and festivals. Amazingly, despite all of the Indian culture and word in the book, Shiva’s Fire is surprisingly easy to follow. The language, while somewhat foreign, does not distract from the plot or make the book difficult to understand.
Interdisciplinary Connections: I feel that this book would fit well with a unit about dance. Anyone wishing to learn more about cultural dances would really enjoy this book. Additionally, this book would be a great read for a Social Studies unit about countries and cultures around the world. Any student who read this book would get a good sense of Indian culture.
Other Information: I really love this book. It is extremely descriptive (without being tedious) and provides a wonderful sense of Indian culture. I wasn’t sure if I would like this book as I am not particularly interested in dance, but the overall plot of struggle and hard work is relatable even without a personal connection to the topic of dance. My one disclaimer on this book is that it is not something boys would enjoy. There is a scene in the book in which Parvati’s menstrual cycle begins which would make this book something most suited for Middle School Girls.