Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton

"The Child, wild-legged on the ground, licked dust off his fist and tried to pretend he was tasing camel milk."

Title: The Camel Bookmobile

Author: Masha Hamilton
ISBN: 9780061173493
Publisher: HarperPerennial/2008
Pages: 308

The Story Behind the Book in the author's words:

The Camel Bookmobile made its first run almost a decade ago. Three dromedaries trudged through dusty, arid northeastern Kenya near the border with Somalia to bring a library to settlements so tiny and far-flung they'd become nearly invisible; places lacking roads and schools, where most people had never held a book between their hands and where they lived daily with drought, hunger and disease.

I first heard about the project from my daughter one autumn afternoon as I drove my three children to the Bear Canyon Library in Arizona's Tanque Verde valley. She'd read an article in Time For Kids. One detail in particular piqued my interest. Because books were rare and precious in the reaches of Africa far from the safari vacationers, the camel-powered library initiated a severe fine. If even one person lost a book, the bookmobile would boycott that entire village, choosing another to visit instead.


Book Blurb:

Fiona Sweeney wants to do something that matters, and she chooses to make her mark in the arid bush of northeastern Kenya. By helping to start a traveling library, she hopes to bring the words of Homer, Hemingway, and Dr. Seuss to far-flung tiny communities where people live daily with drought, hunger, and disease. Her intentions are honorable, and her rules are firm: due to the limited number of donated books, if any one of them is not returned, the bookmobile will not return.

But, encumbered by her Western values, Fi does not understand the people she seeks to help. And in the impoverished small community of Mididima, she finds herself caught in the middle of a volatile local struggle when the bookmobile's presence sparks a dangerous feud between the proponents of modernization and those who fear the loss of traditional ways.


What led me to pick up this book?

I had seen reviews of this book in the blog world and liked the premise. When I requested a copy of it from Masha Hamilton, she was generous enough to send me a copy of it.

What did I like most about the book?

I like reading books set in Africa. This book is set in Kenya and the storyline is different from my usual reads. Also because it is mainly to do with books and reading. A travelling library is started and taken to remote places. Camels are used as the mobile libraries. People who had not seen and read any books also seem to like this concept and look forward to the regular visits of the mobile library.

What did I think of the writing style?

The prose is simple, and I liked the charaterization too. Nowhere it seems stilted and does have a good flow. Hamilton can write prose very lyrically. And some of the characters are so real.

Which of my readers are most likely to enjoy this book? Why?

Those who like to know new cultures, interested in anything African will like it. There is much to learn about the tribes, they way of living and thoughts.

What did I think of the ending?

Under the circumstances, the ending seems right. Open for interpretation by the reader.

Do I recommend this book? Why?

Yes, I recommend this book to those who like realistic way of life depicted in literature. It has that conflict between modernisation and traditional way of living. Not much has changed in certain parts of the country. Mididima to looks like one such place. Fiona too is trying to change her own perception. All of us are questing for something in our own way. Here we can see the various characters seeking answers for the bigger questions of life. The conflict is shown in the way of book which seek to change their way of thinking. Some wish for it, others shun it. Barefoot children who might not be able to read a word still want books. That is what this books depicts. The power and lure of the word. Even though it might not make sense.

Also reviewed by:

Sandra of fresh Ink books


Becca said...

I've heard about this book, and it sounds interesting. Thanks for the great review!

Jo-Jo said...

I also love books set in Africa and this one caught my eye a year or so ago. Thanks for the review!

David Edward said...

God bless you, I hope your new blog blossoms like spring flowers, bringing joy to yourself and many others.

Penny said...

I have this book on my TBR list for the A-Z Challenge this year. I'm looking forward to it, especially after reading your review of it!

Sandra said...

I'm so glad you reviewed this book. I know anyone who reads it would enjoy it. Thanks for including a mention of my brief review. I am doing The Year of Readers 2009 for The Camelbookmobile charity (and looking for sponsors, any amount per book read). Masha Hamilton was nice enough to stop by and leave a comment. It's a fascinating story about an important charity that involves getting books to people.

And I'm so sorry about your blog, you worked so hard on it. Perhaps a small miracle will happen and you'll get it, or some of it back again.