Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami, illustrated by Julianna Swaney

Yasmin, 9, loves to read and her goal is to read a book a day forever. So far, she has read over 400 hundred books. Everyday after school, Yasmin visits Book Uncle, a retired teacher and widower, who runs a free lending library near her apartment. Book Uncle's motto is "Right Book for the right person for the right day," but when he gives Yasmin two books one day, she is a little taken aback. One is an old Indian story, too easy for her. But he insists, and it is a story the she finds herself pondering all weekend long, and even in class Monday, to the annoyance of her teacher, Mrs. Rao.

Later, when Yasmin returns her book, she finds a very unhappy Book Uncle. His books still in their boxes, and holding a summons, Book Uncle has been told by the mayor that he must get a permit which he cannot afford in order to continue his free lending library.

At the same time, Yasmin discovers there is to be an election soon to elect a new mayor. Yasmin's friend Anil is rooting for Karate Samuel, a popular action movie actor, to win, but his is running against the current mayor, S.L. Yogaraja, or Mayor SLY for short, who seems to be the front runner.

Not willing to lose Book Uncle, Yasmin begins a grassroots movement to save his library, enlisting the help of friends, neighbors and her schoolmates, and finally getting a campaign promise from Karate Samuel that he will support Book Uncle. And it doesn't hurt that Yasmin and her fellow activists discover the real reason the the Mayor SLY issued the summons to get rid of Book Uncle.

Is it too late to help Book Uncle and save the Free Lending Library? Or can a grassroots movement begun by a 9 year-old girl really make a difference?

Book Uncle and Me is an absolutely charming story about a book worm turned activist. Yasmin is an chatty, energetic, sometimes sassy, other times caring and considerate character, a protagonist that readers will certainly be able to relate to. I loved seeing her struggle to find the meaning to the old Indian story Book Uncle gave her to read, and how she is eventually able to relate it to her attempts to save the library. And I think her dedication to the cause will serve as inspiration for young readers who may feel they can't make a difference.

Yasmin's story is also a nice slice of life story.  Shopping with her mother, and a visit from her overbearing uncle are not really necessary to the fight to help Book Uncle, but at a nice dimension to the story. And along the way, readers are introduced to some wonderful Indian elements of Yasmin's everyday life, from her flip-floppy chappals to her neighbor who plays a a traditional Indian ghatam, a musical clay pot, to favorite Indian foods like coconut puttu, and the wonderful istri lady"who does peoples ironing for them (istri describe the flat iron she uses for ironing).

Book Uncle and Me is a book I highly recommend, with themes perfect for young readers - friendship, community, family and making a difference.

This book is recommended for readers age 7+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL

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