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The camel bookmobile / Masha Hamilton.

By: Hamilton, Masha.
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookPublisher: London : Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2007Description: 308 pages ; 24 cm.Content type: text Media type: unmediated Carrier type: volumeISBN: 9780297851806 (pbk.).Subject(s): Librarians -- Fiction | Bookmobiles -- Fiction | Books and reading -- Fiction | Americans -- Africa -- Fiction | Americans in Africa -- Fiction | Bookmobiles FictionGenre/Form: Thrillers (Fiction)DDC classification: 813/.6 Subject: Once a fortnight the setlement of Madidima set deep in the dusty Kenyan desert, awaits the arrival of a train of camels laden down with panniers of books. The only condition of the camel bookmobile is that every book must be returned each week or else the visits will cease. Then one day a book is stolen.
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

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 nomadic tribes so tiny and far-flung they have almost become invisible, and to a people 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 and Homer to strange vegetarian cookbooks and true stories of grizzly bear attacks. The only condition of The Camel Bookmobile is that every book must be returned each week or else the visits will cease. Kanika, a young girl devours every book she can lay her hands on and her best friend is Scar Boy, a child who was mauled at the age of three by a hyena.Charming book peopled with warm characters such as Matani the village teacher, his alluring wife Jwahir and the drummaker Abayomi, as well as the camel driver who is certain that one of the camels is possessed by the spirit of his dead mother-in-law!

Once a fortnight the setlement of Madidima set deep in the dusty Kenyan desert, awaits the arrival of a train of camels laden down with panniers of books. The only condition of the camel bookmobile is that every book must be returned each week or else the visits will cease. Then one day a book is stolen.

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Excerpt provided by Syndetics

The Camel Bookmobile Chapter One December 2002-- Brooklyn, New York The American Fiona Sweeney shoved a pair of rolled-up jeans into the corner of her purple duffel bag. Outside her bedroom window, a siren's wail sliced through the white noise of a wet snowfall. Those eerie man-made moans were part of New York City's wallpaper, a signal of trouble commonplace enough to pass unnoticed. But Fi registered this one, maybe because she knew she wouldn't be hearing sirens for a while. She turned her attention back to her bag, which still had space. What else should she take? Lifting a framed snapshot, she examined her mother as a young woman, wading into a stream, wearing rubber boots and carrying a fishing pole. Fi cherished the photograph; in real life, she'd never known her mother to be that carefree. The mother Fi had known wouldn't want to go to Africa. In fact, she wouldn't want Fi to go. Fi put the picture facedown and scanned the room, her attention drawn to a worn volume of Irish poetry by her bedside. She tucked it in. "How about the netting?" Chris called from the living room where he sat with Devi. "Already in," Fi answered. "And repellent?" asked Devi. "Yes, yes." Fi waved her hand as though shooing away a gnat--a gesture that Chris and Devi couldn't see from the other room. "Should have kept my mouth shut," she murmured. Early on in her research about Kenya, she'd discoveredthat the country's annual death toll from malaria was in the tens of thousands. She had pills; she had repellents; logically, she knew she'd be fine. Still, a figure that high jolted her. She became slightly obsessed and--here's the rub--discussed it with Chris and Devi. Mbu --mosquito--had been the first Swahili word she'd learned. Sometimes the insects even dive-bombed into her nightmares. Eventually, mosquitoes became a metaphor for everything she feared about this trip: all the stories she'd read about a violent and chaotic continent, plus the jitters that come with the unknown. And what wasn't unknown? All she knew for sure, in fact, was why she was going. Fi's mom had never been a big talker, but she'd been a hero, raising four kids alone. Now it was Fi's turn to do something worthwhile. "Fi." Chris, at the door of the bedroom, waved in the air the paper on which he'd written a list of all the items he thought she should bring and might forget. Money belt. Hat. Granola bars. "Have you been using this?" he asked half-mockingly in the tone of a teacher. "I hate lists," Fi said. He studied her a second. "OK," he said. "Then, what do you say, take a break?" "Yeah, c'mon, Fi. We don't want to down all your wine by ourselves," Devi called from the living room, where an Enya CD played low. Pulling back her dark, frizzy hair and securing it with a clip, Fi moved to the living room and plopped onto the floor across from Devi, who sprawled in a long skirt on the couch. Chris poured Fi a glass of cabernet and sat in the chair nearest her. If they reached out, the three of them could hold hands. Fi felt connected to them in many ways, but at the same time, she was already partly in another place and period. A soft light fell in from the window, dousing the room in a flattering glow and intensifying the sensation that everything around her was diaphanous, and that she herself was half here and half not. "You know, there's lots of illiteracy in this country," Devi said after a moment. "That's why I've been volunteering after work," Fi said. "But there, it's different. They've never been exposed to libraries. Some have never held a book in their hands." "Not to mention that it's more dangerous, which somehow makes it appealing to Fi," Chris said to Devi, shaking his head. "Nai-robbery." Though he spoke lightly, his words echoed those of Fi's brother and two sisters--especially her brother. She was ready with a retort. "I'll mainly be in Garissa, not Nairobi," she said. "It's no more dangerous there than New York City. Anyway, I want to take some risks--different risks. Break out of my rut. Do something meaningful." Then she made her tone playful. "The idealistic Irish. What can you do?" "Sometimes idealism imposes," Chris said. "What if all they want is food and medicine?" "You know what I think. Books are their future. A link to the modern world." Fi grinned. "Besides, we want Huckleberry Finn to arrive before Sex in the City reruns, don't we?" Devi reached out to squeeze Fi's shoulder. "Just be home by March." Home. Fi glanced around, trying to consciously take in her surroundings. She'd considered subletting, which would have been the most economical decision, but she'd gotten busy and let it slide. Now she noticed that Chris had stacked her magazines neatly and stored away the candles so they wouldn't collect dust. After she left for Kenya, Chris had told her, he'd come back to wash any glasses or plates she'd left out, make sure the post office was holding her mail, and take her plants back to his apartment. He'd thought of that, not her. A nice gesture, she kept reminding herself. Still. She gave Chris a wicked grin as she reached out to mess up the magazines on the coffee table. It felt satisfying, even though she knew he would just restack them later. Chris was deep into what his colleagues called "groundbreaking" research on the human brain--specifically the hippocampus--at NYU Medical Center. He wanted a shared home and, eventually, kids. Her siblings thought they were a well-suited couple, but that was hardly persuasive. Fi's brother's wife's cousin was married to one of Fi's sisters, and they all still lived within eight blocks of their childhood homes. They considered Fi a wanderer for moving from the Bronx all the way to Brooklyn. They wanted to see her "settled," and she doubted that it mattered much to them who she settled with--or for. The Camel Bookmobile . Copyright © by Masha Hamilton. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

New York City librarian Fiona Sweeney has taken an unusual assignment in Kenya-running a bookmobile service powered by camel and serving isolated, seminomadic villages like Mididima, where teenaged library customer Kanika lives with her grandmother, Neema. Taban, a young man severely scarred as a toddler by a hyena, is shunned by most of the community, but he and Kanika share a friendship and a sweet anticipation of Sweeney's every visit. Matani, Mididima's schoolmaster, is a champion of the service, but even he can't do anything when several missing books threaten the village's reputation and set off a chain of events that expose misguided motives, hidden agendas, illicit romance, and tragedy. This third novel from international journalist Hamilton (e.g., The Distance Between Us, an LJ Best Book) presents a rare and balanced perspective on issues surrounding cultural intrusion and the very meaning and necessity of literacy, using rich and evocative prose that skillfully exposes the stark realities of poverty and charity in today's Africa. Highly recommended for any fiction collection. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 12/06; the story was suggested by the Camel Mobile Library Service actually provided by Kenya's national library.-Ed.]-Jenn B. Stidham, Houston Community Coll.-Northeast, TX (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Review

Hamilton's captivating third novel (after 2004's The Distance Between Us) follows Fiona Sweeney, a 36-year-old librarian, from New York to Garissa, Kenya, on her sincere but naive quest to make a difference in the world. Fi enlists to run the titular mobile library overseen by Mr. Abasi, and in her travels through the bush, the small village of Mididima becomes her favorite stop. There, Matani, the village teacher; Kanika, an independent, vivacious young woman; and Kanika's grandmother Neema are the most avid proponents of the library and the knowledge it brings to the community. Not everyone shares such esteem for the project, however. Taban, known as Scar Boy; Jwahir, Matani's wife; and most of the town elders think these books threaten the tradition and security of Mididima. When two books go missing, tensions arise between those who welcome all that the books represent and those who prefer the time-honored oral traditions of the tribe. Kanika, Taban and Matani become more vibrant than Fi, who never outgrows the cookie-cutter mold of a woman needing excitement and fulfillment, but Hamilton weaves memorable characters and elemental emotions in artful prose with the lofty theme of Western-imposed "education" versus a village's perceived perils of exposure to the developed world. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-Fiona, a New York librarian filled with a sense of adventure and a desire to do good, heads to Kenya to run the camel bookmobile. She has long romanticized Africa, and she arrives determined but naive. Her most remote stop is Mididima, a seminomadic farming village with a makeshift school, led by Matani, who has studied in Nairobi but returned to educate his fellow villagers. Young Kanika, who wants to leave and study as well; the reclusive Scar Boy; and their families are among Fiona's patrons. When Scar Boy doesn't return the books he's borrowed, the overly rigid local librarian threatens to end the Mididima stop. Fiona, Matani, and Kanika each have stake in keeping the bookmobile coming, so they all try to get the boy to return them. However, he has his own compelling reason to keep them. All of the characters take a turn at narrating chapters, allowing readers to understand their place in the story more fully. Ultimately, each one is changed by the bookmobile, but not in ways that they (or we) might expect. Teens can enjoy not only the multicultural aspect of this novel but also the quiet drama and plot twists that impart the differences and similarities among the characters.-Jamie Watson, Harford County Public Library, MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

Yes, there really is such a thing as a camel bookmobile, and the image of unwieldy beasts laden with book-filled boxes provided inspiration for novelist Hamilton ( The Distance between Us, 2004) to compose a lush celebration of the productive--and destructive--power of the written word. Languishing in a dead-end job in a Brooklyn library, Fiona Sweeney, 36, feels time is passing her by. So when the opportunity arises to travel to Africa to manage an unorthodox mobile library, Fi jumps at the chance to influence a culture of nomadic people whose existence is dependent upon more basic human requirements, such as water, food, and shelter. With everything from Seuss to Shakespeare, Fi's regular deliveries of books elate the village women and children but intimidate tribal elders, who fear change and anticipate the loss of their ancient ways. When the bookmobile's one intractable rule is broken, the village turns on the emotionally and physically scarred teenager whose act of rebellion jeopardizes everything Fi has worked for. With a heartfelt appreciation for the potential of literature to transcend cultural divides, Hamilton has created a poignant, ennobling, and buoyant tale of risks and rewards, surrender and sacrifice. --Carol Haggas Copyright 2007 Booklist