Review: The Camel Bookmobile

camelTHE CAMEL BOOKMOBILE is a fictional tale of an American librarian who leaves Brooklyn to work for a relief organization in Africa that sends books on the backs of camels to forgotten villages. Her intentions are entirely pure but, when the bookmobile causes a feud among the nomadic tribe it aims to help, she realizes her good deeds may come with a high price.
The actual Camel Bookmobile made its first run almost a decade ago. Three dromedaries trudged through arid northeastern Kenya to bring a library to settlements so remote they had become nearly invisible. Lacking roads, clean water, and food, those who inhabited these villages had never been to school much less held a book in their hands. The books that came to them were rare and precious gifts, allowing them to briefly escape the reality of squalor and destitution.
Appealing to the fans of
Reading Lolita in Tehran and The Bookseller of Kabul, The Camel Bookmobile captures a time and place that is unknown to many but relevant to all.” – Goodreads

In The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton, Fi Sweeney is a librarian from Brooklyn, New York who takes a sabbatical and moves to Garissa, Kenya in Africa to help organize and run the Camel Bookmobile – an outreach effort to bring books to remote villages. Fi develops a special bond to residents of Mididima, where many rejoice at the appearance of the books. School is held for the children for the first time. Others in the village, including most of the elders, are not happy about the Camel Bookmobile at all. They fear that the knowledge from the books is going to usurp the knowledge passed down from their traditionally oral history.

Mr. Abasi, head of the local library, despises the Camel bookmobile as well. Thus, he has instituted strict rules, attempting to ensure its doom – for example, if any books are late, lost or damaged, the Camel Bookmobile will not return to that village. Ever. Fi and her friends are very careful to abide by Mr. A’s rules, but one day it comes to light that a young man, who goes by the name of Scar Boy, has failed to return his two books. Not only this, but he refuses to divulge their whereabouts. Mr. Abasi is thrilled – no more long, dusty trips by camel to Mididima! Fi is so desperate to save this privilege for the village, however, that she later returns to Mididima on her own to search for the books. Will she find them in time?

The Camel Bookmobile is a delightful novel. I love that it is based on an actual Camel Library and Bookmobile, also in Garissa, Kenya. Hamilton’s love for books shines through in the language she uses for both Fi and for the villagers when describing their relationships with books. This tale is about so much more than books, however. It is about tradition, legacy, honor, love, and forging new paths to the future. It is about holding on to the best parts of you, but letting go just enough to be able to move forward into the great unknown. The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton is a great pick for summer reading – you definitely want to search this one out.

4 stars, my friend.

Source: Lincoln City Libraries Digital Downloads

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