Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Book Uncle and Me

Book Uncle and Me

Uma Krishnaswami
For ages 8 to 10
Groundwood Books, 2016   ISBN: 978-1554988082

Every day Yasmin goes to see Book Uncle to borrow a new book from him. Last year, after she turned eight, Yasmin began reading a book a day and so far she has read more than four hundred titles. Every day Book Uncle gives Yasmin the book or books that he thinks will suit her best at that particular moment, and she has loved every book he has chosen. Book Uncle does not sell books. He just sits on the side of the road and offers books to people for free. They can return the books or not. Book Uncle is just happy to put books into the hands of readers.

One day Book Uncle gives Yasmin a very slim volume, a children’s Indian fairy tale. She is not sure why he chose this book for her, but she reads it and realizes that the simple story contains a message for her, a something that she is missing. Yasmin ponders and ponders what this something might be.

One morning, when she goes to return two books that she has read to Book Uncle, she finds the old man standing on the side of the road and none of his book boxes are unpacked. He explains to Yasmin that he has received a letter telling him that if he wants to continue to run his lending library on the street he is going to have to get a permit, and he cannot afford the sum of money required. Book Uncle is going to have to close down his lending library.

Apparently someone from the neighborhood wrote to the mayor’s office to complain about Book Uncle’s ‘business.’ Hearing this upsets Yasmin. Something has to be done. Somehow she has to find a way to convince the mayor’s office that Book Uncle is providing a service that the neighborhood needs.

It turns out that this year is the year when the people in Yasmin’s city get to vote for a new mayor. The current mayor clearly does not care about Book Uncle’s predicament, but perhaps one of the other candidates will be more understanding. Yasmin rallies her classmates, friends, family members and neighbors to write letters to all the mayoral candidates. After all, “if one letter can cause a problem, maybe hundreds of letters can fix it.” Yasmin firmly believes that the way to save Book Uncle’s lending library is to make him an “election issue.”

The further into the process Yasmin goes the more she learns about how elections work and how politicians, and would be politicians, use the system to their own advantage. If she is going to succeed in her goal, one that she and many other people care about, she is going to have to be creative.

All too often children feel powerless when something in their community happens that they don’t like. After all, what can mere children do? In this book children will meet a little girl who spearheads a campaign to save something she believes in. Inspired by one of the stories Book Uncle shared with her, she gathers the support of her community around her, and works hard to defend Book Uncle’s wonderful lending library.

This empowering book celebrates the power of books, and it also serves as a reminder that everyone has the ability to bring about change if they try hard enough.