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Book Uncle and Me

Written by Uma Krishnaswami

Illustrated by Julianna Swaney

  • 152 Pages
  • 9781554988082
  • 7.5" x 5"
  • from grade 3 to grade 6
  • JUVENILE FICTION / People & Places / Asia



Publication Date September 01, 2016

Every day, nine-year-old Yasmin borrows a book from Book Uncle, a retired teacher who has set up a free lending library next to her apartment building. But when the mayor tries to shut down the rickety bookstand, Yasmin has to take her nose out of her book and do something.

But what can she do? The local elections are coming up but she’s just a kid. She can’t even vote!

Still, Yasmin has friends — her best friend, Reeni, and Anil, who even has a black belt in karate. And she has grownup family and neighbors who, no matter how preoccupied they are, care about what goes on in their community.

Then Yasmin remembers a story that Book Uncle selected for her. It’s an old folktale about a flock of doves trapped in a hunter’s net. The birds realize that if they all flap their wings at the same time, they can lift the net and fly to safety, where they seek the help of a friendly mole who chews a hole in the net and sets them free.

And so the children get to work, launching a campaign to make sure the voices of the community are heard.

An energetic, funny and quirky story that explores the themes of community activism, friendship, and the love of books.

Winner of the International Literacy Association Social Justice Literature Award 2017

Selected for the NPR's Guide to 2016's Great Reads 2016

Selected for the USBBY's Outstanding International Books List 2017

Selected for the OLA Best Bets Top Ten 2016

Selected for the Little Free Library Action Book Club Selection 2017

Selected for the Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices List 2017

Selected for the Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Books of the Year 2017


Uma Krishnaswami
Uma Krishnaswami has written many highly acclaimed children’s books, from picture books to middle-grade novels to retellings of classic tales and myths. She teaches at Vermont College of Fine Arts in the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults and is an active blogger. She lives in Aztec, New Mexico. Visit Uma Krishnaswami's website:

Julianna Swaney
Julianna Swaney is an artist, designer and printmaker specializing in watercolors. She lives in Portland, Oregon.


Star Review

"Yasmin's campaign should help inspire young readers to believe in their own potential to make a difference and teach the valuable lesson that sometimes it takes several small actions to make big moves." Kirkus, STARRED REVIEW

Star Review

"This sweet slice-of-life tale…demonstrates that children can be empowered to effect change in their own neighborhoods. This is also a perfect title to shine a light on elections taking place elsewhere." School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

"[Readers] will surely be charmed by Jasmin's upbeat personality and determination." The Horn Book

"In this celebratory homage to reading — heightened by Julianne Swaney's charming illustrations — Krishnaswami adroitly inserts important lessons on politics, leadership, government processes, grassroots activism and the importance of every single vote." Shelf Awareness

"Nine-year-old Yasmine is a self described book-a-day reader. Every day after school she likes to stop by Book Uncle’s lending library on the corner by her apartment complex. Book Uncle has been on the corner as long as Yasmine can remember, and his motto of “Right book for the right person for the right day” hasn’t steered her wrong yet, though she finds herself second-guessing his latest recommendation, which seems too easy. Yasmine has a misunderstanding with her friends Reeni and Anil, who do not seem to understand her love for reading and her questions about this particular story. Meanwhile, the local mayoral election has everyone in the city excited—partly because a famous actor is running. When Yasmine goes back to see Book Uncle, she is perplexed to find him boxing up all of his wares. It seems that he has been issued a summons and told he needs a permit in order to keep operating his lending library. Unfortunately, he cannot afford a permit. What follows is Yasmine’s social awakening. The neighbors she has noticed only in passing before become allies in her grassroots effort to get Book Uncle back in business. VERDICT This sweet slice-of-life tale not only highlights Yasmine’s neighborhood and life in India but also demonstrates that children can be empowered to effect change in their own neighborhoods. This is also a perfect title to shine a light on elections taking place elsewhere." School Library Journal

"Yasmin's first-person narrative is lively and lilting, and the novel is packed with interesting characters and plenty of humor. Most important, the message that is conveyed … is that anyone, no matter their age or size, can make a positive difference in their community." Booklist