Tuesday, September 17, 2013
The Book Uncle and me by Uma Krishnaswami
The Book Uncle and me was the 2011 winner of the Scholastic Asian Book Award (SABA). I have not heard of this award. Is it open to any book published in Asia? Or only titles from Scholastic? What is the criteria for this award? An Asian author, Asian setting, a book in an Asian language?
An internet search reveals SABA is a joint initiative by Scholastic and the National Book Development Council of Singapore, the award is an attempt to recognise and celebrate children’s writers of Asian origin and books that reflect Asian experiences.
Most intriguing of all though, for me, is who did the illustrations for this book - I love them and was this book originally written in English or another language? The imprint page lists Scholastic as the copyright holder of the illustrations. This does not help me.
Book Uncle is not Yasmin's uncle - Uncle is a title used by the community as a form of respect to an older person. The Book Uncle is, however, a book person. In his retirement from teaching he has set up a barrow lending library in a busy Indian city. He happily lends books to anyone for free - the perfect library! He is also happy to recommend books. Yasmin herself is the perfect customer. She has set herself a target of reading "one book every day, forever. I started last year right after I turned eight, which ready feels like a billions years ago, because now I am past four hundred. Books, I mean."
This book is about activism. The city planners are now requesting a huge licence fee from the Book Uncle. He cannot pay this and thus packs up his library and heads home. Yasmin is devastated. Then she finds an effective way have this unjust requirement reversed. In schools we often look for books that show democracy in action and Book Uncle and me is perfect for this purpose. I really enjoyed Book Uncle and me - it is quick to read, and celebrates a strong sense of community.
If you enjoy this book you might also look for The Battle of the Galah Trees by Christobel Mattingley or My name is Will Thompson by Robert Newton.