Tchana, Katrin Hyman 1963-

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Tchana, Katrin Hyman 1963-

Personal

Born May 2, 1963, in Malden, MA; daughter of Harris (an engineer) and Trina Schart (an illustrator) Hyman; married Eugene Y. Tchana (a computer systems administrator), 1988 (divorced, 2003); partner of Mary Helen Bentley (a human and animal resource manager); children: Michou Tchana Hyman, Xavier Tchana Tchatchoua. Education: Attended Bennington College, 1979-81; College of the Atlantic, B.A. (human ecology), 1983; Columbia University, M.A. (teaching), 1991. Politics: "Progressive." Hobbies and other interests: Tai chi, gardening.

Addresses

Home—Norwich, VT. E-mail—[email protected]

Career

U.S. Peace Corps, Washington, DC, volunteer teacher in Cameroon, 1985-88; teacher of English as a second language, 1988-98; Headrest (substance abuse treatment center), Lebanon, NH, hotline counselor, 1998-2000; Clara Martin Center (community mental-health center), Randolph, VT, community mental health clinician, 2000-04; West Central Services, NH, community mental health clinician, 2004—. Open Fields School, member of board of directors; volunteer for domestic violence hotline.

Awards, Honors

Booklist Top Ten Religion Books for Youth designation, 2007, for Changing Woman and Her Sisters.

Writings

FOR CHILDREN

Anastasia Reading, Golden Books (New York, NY), 1997.

(With sister-in-law Louise Tchana Pami) Oh No, Toto!, illustrated by Colin Bootman, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.

(Reteller) The Serpent Slayer, and Other Stories of Strong Women, illustrated by mother, Trina Schart Hyman, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2000.

(Reteller) Sense Pass King: A Story from Cameroon, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2001.

(Reteller) Changing Woman and Her Sisters: Stories of Goddesses from around the World, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2006.

Sidelights

The daughter of noted children's book illustrator Trina Schart Hyman, Katrin Hyman Tchana expands upon the family tradition by retelling stories for young children that introduce new cultures in traditional tales. Featuring artwork by noted illustrator Colin Bootman and a text that features colorful pidgin English, Oh No, Toto! is a collaboration with Tchana's then-sister-in-law Louise Tchana Pami that was inspired by the author's experiences working in Cameroon as a teacher for the Peace Corps during the 1980s. Another picture book—one of several collaborations between mother and daughter that features what a Publishers Weekly reviewer praised as Hyman's "gleaming, realistic oil paintings"—Sense Pass King: A Story from Cameroon again draws on Tchana's love of central African culture.

Focusing on a wise and kind-hearted young girl named Ma'antah whose ability to speak the language of animals allows her to ultimately triumph over a jealous monarch, Sense Pass King contains what Horn Book reviewer Margaret A. Bush dubbed "an entertaining story of youthful heroics" that ends with "the triumph of wisdom and goodness." In Black Issues Book Review, Lynda Jones praised Tchana's retelling as "wonderfully rich," adding that Ma'antah "is a brave child who is not only sure of herself but is a quick thinker." Noting that Hyman's "riveting acrylic paintings shine with clarity, humanity, and beauty," a Kirkus Reviews writer praised the book as "gorgeously illustrated," while a Publishers Weekly contributor concluded that Tchana's story includes "lots of action and smart thinking," making it "a welcome alternative to trickster tales, where intelligence is often associated with deviousness."

Two other highly praised collaborations between Tchana and Hyman, the anthologies The Serpent Slayer, and Other Stories of Strong Women and Changing Woman and Her Sisters: Stories of Goddesses from around the World, are notable not only for their contents, but also because they are among the last volumes to be illustrated by Hyman before the award-winning illustrator tragically passed away in 2004. Containing eighteen traditional tales drawn from a wide variety of cultures, The Serpent Slayer, and Other Stories of Strong Women introduces strong-willed, resourceful heroines that juggle "swords, needles and stew pots with equal skill, marry whom they please and even outwit the devil," according to an enthusiastic Publishers Weekly writer. In a similar fashion, Changing Woman and Her Sisters mines the mythology of ancient Sumer and Egypt, Mayan, Fong, and Navajo cultures, and even Ireland to present a pantheon of "vain, assertive, abused, and lavishly fer-

tile" deities, according to Horn Book critic Deirdre F. Baker. In her review of The Serpent Slayer, and Other Stories of Strong Women for the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books online, Janice M. Del Negro praised the mother-daughter collaboration, citing Tchana's "solid retellings" of the tales. "Tchana's fresh and unpretentious storytelling voice is reinforced by the earthy glory of Hyman's illustrations," the critic added, "and the result is an elegantly conceived and executed volume." While Baker commended Tchana's choice of stories in Changing Woman and Her Sisters for helping "readers … notice the imagery and symbolism associated with female deities," a Kirkus Reviews writer cited the author's "spare, yet richly detailed retellings" as a central component of "a transcendent collaboration that will reward repeated study."

"Writing for children's books is hard!!," Tchana exclaimed in an interview for the Peace Corps Global Teachnet Online. "You have to say a lot with a very few words. Every word has to count." The Vermont-based writer added that she strives to create books that "celebrate diversity and increase tolerance by introducing children to different cultures in an interesting and amusing way. It's also important to me," Tchana added "that we have stories available for our children that portray girls and women as people of strength and power."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Black Issues Book Review, March-April, 2003, Lynda Jones, review of Sense Pass King: A Story from Cameroon, p. 64.

Booklist, March 1, 1997, Julie Corsaro, review of Oh, No, Toto!, p. 1174; December 15, 2000, Linda Perkins, review of The Serpent Slayer, and Other Stories of Strong Women, p. 502; November 1, 2002, Hazel Rochman, review of Sense Pass King, p. 502; June 1, 2006, Carolyn Phelan, review of Changing Woman and Her Sisters: Stories of Goddesses from around the World, p. 75.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, March, 1997, review of Oh, No, Toto!, p. 259; November, 2000, review of The Serpent Slayer, and Other Stories of Strong Women, p. 95; January, 2003, review of Sense Pass King, p. 213; September, 2006, Maggie Hommel, review of Changing Woman and Her Sisters, p. 37.

Horn Book, November, 2000, Jennifer M. Brabander, review of The Serpent Slayer, and Other Stories of Strong Women, p. 765; November-December, 2002, Margaret A. Bush, review of Sense Pass King, p. 770; July-August, 2006, Deirdre F. Baker, review of Changing Woman and Her Sister, p. 458.

Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2002, review of Sense Pass King, p. 1402; May 1, 2006, review of Changing Woman and Her Sisters, p. 468.

New York Times Book Review, December 8, 2002, review of Sense Pass King, p. 76.

Publishers Weekly, February 10, 1997, review of Oh, No, Toto!, p. 82; August 7, 2000, review of The Serpent Slayer, and Other Stories of Strong Women, p. 95; July 22, 2002, review of Sense Pass King, p. 176.

School Library Journal, March, 1997, Judith Gloyer, review of Oh, No, Toto!, p. 168; November, 2000, Anne Chapman Callaghan, review of The Serpent Slayer, and Other Stories of Strong Women, p. 148; September, 2002, Ajoke' T.I. Kokodoko, review of Sense Pass King, p. 218; August, 2006, Miriam Lang Budin, review of Changing Woman and Her Sisters, p. 143.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), January 7, 2001, review of The Serpent Slayer, and Other Stories of Strong Women, p. 4; November 10, 2002, review of Sense Pass King, p. 5.

ONLINE

Peace Corps Global Teachnet,http://www.rpcv.org/ (March-April, 2006), "Meet the Author: Katrin Hyman Tchana."

Bulletin of the Center of Children's Book Online,http://bccb.lis.uiuc.edu/ (November 1, 2000), Janice M. Del Negro, review of The Serpent Slayer, and Other Stories of Strong Women.

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