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The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton
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The Camel Bookmobile (2007)

by Masha Hamilton

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Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
In "The Camel Bookmobile" (2007), Masha Hamilton weaves a fascinating, multi-layered story about some overdue library books. This isn't an ordinary library, however. The books are, in fact, packed on the back of a camel and taken to remote villages in Kenya, where most of the people can't even read, let alone read English, which is the language most of the donated books happen to be in. The camel bookmobile is viewed differently by different people in these villages. To some it represents progress, the way into the modern world. To others it represents evil, a threat to old ways and old wisdom.

Fiona Sweeney, an idealistic 36-year-old American woman, commits herself to this project, and she particularly enjoys visiting Mididma, an isolated village of semi-nomads which includes a teacher, an old woman and her granddaughter who are literate and treasure books, almost any books Fi happens to bring on the camel.

Among the library patrons is a teenager called Scar Boy since being attacked by a hyena and badly disfigured. When the bookmobile returns to Mididma, Scar Boy refuses to return the books he borrowed, thus threatening the village's future as a stop on the bookmobile's schedule. This is a problem even for those who object to the bookmobile because of the shame it will bring to the village. Everyone begins pressuring Scar Boy to return the books, but it turns out he could no longer return them even if he wanted to.

Much else happens in Hamilton's story. The teacher's lovely wife falls in love with Scar Boy's father, while Fi and the teacher discover a strange attraction to each other. The little girl who loves books decides she wants to follow Fi to America to become a teacher, and Scar Boy is discovered to have a rare talent nobody knew about. Meanwhile a drought threatens the very existence of the village.

The camel bookmobile really exists, and has since 1996. Hamilton's novel, besides telling a delightful story about the power of books, brings our attention to that fact and makes us wonder about some of the true stories it must have inspired. ( )
  hardlyhardy | Dec 29, 2014 |
4.5 stars.

Fiona is a librarian in New York, but she has decided to travel to Kenya to help set up a bookmobile, traveling by camel to small villages. One of the villages, Mididima, has an interesting group of people, some of whom are opposed to the library coming. They don’t think they or their children need to learn to read, as they’ve gotten by as they have for generations. One girl (and her grandmother) are thrilled to have the library and to be able to borrow the books; there is also a boy with a scar on his face who seems to enjoy the books. There is a teacher, who is in support of the library, and his wife, who is very much against it (but at the same time is little bit torn about it).

It was really, really good. Each chapter was told from different characters’ viewpoints. I think the book did a really good job of describing the feelings of the people who opposed the bookmobile and why. Close to the end, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like the ending, but ultimately, I did - I think the way it was tied up was very fitting and appropriate. ( )
  LibraryCin | Jan 3, 2014 |
Really enjoyed the theme, the depictions of village life and rituals, and the author's cast of characters overall. (Warning spoiler alert coming!) However, when it was all over and I paused to consider my review I was left feeling the same way Fi was when she went to reconnect with Matani--that I didn't get the opportunity to know these fictional friends well enough or long enough. Still it was worth the read and I'd certainly recommend it to anyone considering humanitarian work in any Third World nation, especially Africa. ( )
  dele2451 | Nov 11, 2013 |
Hmnnnn.....where to begin? I had heard good things about this book. Usually my international book group doesn't fail me, but this time it did....badly.

So where to start with this mess of a novel? Shall we talk about the author's muddled message---the program is pretty much seen as failure, yet she plugs it enthusiastically in her epilogue? Or how about the trite and unbelievable "love story"? How about the arrogance of entering into people's minds that the author cannot even begin to understand? How about the author's disconcerting admission that she had pretty much finished the novel before she went to Kenya for a few more details--- a bit of local color don't cha know--without changing the fabric of her story ? Just stretch your preconceived plot on the bed of political correctness--it's all good! And let's not forget the author's too-cooler--than --you- explanation of why she wrote the book in the first place. Appallingly superficial, a cheat designed to give the reader the smug feeling that they can understand an "exotic land"--it gives a bad name to novels calculatingly presented as book group fodder. ( )
  gaeta1 | Nov 9, 2013 |
One of the best books that I have read for some time. It is written from the view of multipul people and the author has managed to represent all of the people in such a way that you get involved with all of them.
The basic story is of a bookmobile based on a caravan visting a settlement in the desert and the effect that it has on the people involved. The british librarian, the local librarian and the settlement teacher and one of the girls.
please read this
  jessicariddoch | Sep 9, 2013 |
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For the inspiring librarians who help keep the real camel bookmobile running into the African bush, and who are dedicated to decreasing an illiteracy rate of more than eighty percent: Rashid M. Farrah, Nimo Isaack, Kaltuma Banaya, and Joseph Otieno. Thank you for the time my daughter and I shared with you.
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The child, wide-legged on the ground, licked dust off his fist and tried to pretend he was tasting camel milk.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061173487, Hardcover)

Once a fortnight, the nomadic settlement of Madidima, set deep in the dusty Kenyan desert, awaits the arrival of three camels laden down with panniers of books. This is the Camel Bookmobile, a scheme set up to bring books to scattered tribes whose daily life is dominated by drought, famine and disease. Into their world comes an unexpected wealth of literature - from the adventures of Tom Sawyer to strange vegetarian cookbooks and Dr Seuss. Kanika, a young girl who lives with her grandmother, devours every book she can lay her hands on. Her best friend is Scar Boy, a child who was mauled at the age of three by a hyena. They are joined by Matani the village teacher, his alluring wife Jwahir and the drummaker Abayomi, as well as Mr Abasi, the camel driver, who is convinced that one of the camels is possessed by the spirit of his dead mother-in-law. The only condition of The Camel Bookmobile is that every book must be returned or else the visits will cease. Then one day a book is stolen...

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:50 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Establishing a bookmobile in a destitute Kenya village, well-intentioned Fiona Sweeny inadvertently renews a decades-old tribal feud involving a camel-powered bookmobile and prior efforts to promote local education.

» see all 3 descriptions

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Masha Hamilton is a LibraryThing Author, an author who lists their personal library on LibraryThing.

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