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The Camel Bookmobile    by Masha Hamilton order for
Camel Bookmobile
by Masha Hamilton
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2007 (2007)

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* *   Reviewed by Joan Burton

Fiona Sweeney is a librarian. She has a passion for reading and books. In her late thirties however, she feels like her life is at a standstill. She wants to do something with her life that will make a difference in the world.

She embarks on a trip to Africa, in the north eastern part of Kenya, with a traveling library that brings books to the people of desolate communities. Most of these tiny settlements lack roads and schools. The people live their lives fighting hunger, disease, and drought. Fiona travels on the back of a camel with her precious cargo, guides, and Mr. Abasi, an African librarian/translator. The library has one strict rule. Because the books are donated and few in number, anyone not returning books will cause the bookmobile to stop coming to their settlement.

Fiona meets the people of Mididimia and welcomes their excitement. She meets Kanika, a young girl living with her grandmother Neema. Neema is a smart woman and knows the children need the books to educate them so they can move on in life. She meets the school teacher Matani and his wife Jwahir. Jwahir sees the bookmobile as a threat to their old world customs, and tries to get her husband to make the bookmobile leave. Fiona also meets Abayomi who makes drums and is the father of two young boys Taban - or Scar Boy, as he is called after an attack by a hyena - and Badru.

Soon Fiona comes to realize that there is a struggle within the settlement. Some favour the new culture being introduced to them, while others fear the loss of their traditional way of life. Tension starts to escalate when Scar Boy fails to return his books. The library soon stops their visits. Fiona misses her new friends and has to come to terms with leaving her heart with them. She returns to Mididimia alone to recover the loss for the bookmobile.

This tiny African settlement, Fiona comes to understand is a lot like the western world. Some people want to leave to better themselves, others think they would be happier with someone else, and others do not want change. When Fiona tries to recover the books from Scar Boy she makes a startling discovery that could change his life. The Camel Bookmobile tells us how some people struggle just to exist. It is a heartwarming story of people reaching out to help others.

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