An important application of starch grafted with copolymers from unsaturated organic acids is the use as water absorbent. Although much research has been published in recent years, the kinetics of water absorption and the swelling behavior of starch based superabsorbents are relatively unexplored. Also, water retention under mechanical strain is usually not reported. Cassava starch was used since it has considerable economic potential in Asia. The gelatinized starch was grafted with acrylic acid and Fenton's initiator and crosslinked with N,N′-methylenebisacrylamide (MBAM). Besides a good initial absorption capacity, the product could retain up to 63 g H2O/g under severe suction. The material thus combines a good absorption capacity with sufficient gel strength. The mathematical analysis of the absorption kinetics shows that at conditions of practical interest, the rate of water penetration into the gel is determined by polymer chain relaxations and not by osmotic driven diffusion.