Wednesday, December 17, 2008

BOOK: The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton

The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton, 309 pages

What an Animal! challenge; Kenya around the world

(review is an homage to bookfool)
Is this a boring old nonfiction account of bringing books to the outskirts of Kenya?
No, not at all. I wasn't sure what I thought this would be about, but it wasn't boring at all. Hamilton based the novel on a true event of bringing literacy on camels to the rural areas of Kenya, but the story is really about the people and the relationships during a short time period.

What book did this remind you of?
The Number One Ladies Detective Agency has the same sort of feel, of way of life in Africa, of feeling like not much happens, when there is so much below the surface. In some ways, not much happens: a bookmobile that visits a nomadic community returns to find 2 books have been lost. The community needs to find the books for several reasons. But the relationships, motives, and behaviors of the characters are so much more than they seem.

Who are the characters?
The American, the Librarian, the Teacher, the Girl, the Grandmother, the Teacher's Wife, the Drum Maker, and Scar Boy. Each chapter is named for one of the characters, but it is all told in third person. I was surprised at how quickly each character came to life with a whole back story, with hopes and thoughts and decisions. Not all are likable, but like people everywhere, they have their reasons.

Good ending?
Not a happily ever after ending, but certainly realistic.

Where did you hear of this book?
I wish I could remember the person, but it was online. Somebody wrote a review last year and it was the first I'd heard of it and it sounded wonderful. I ordered it and then looked at it on my shelf for far too long.

Big lessons or themes?
Change is difficult, the constant battle between old customs and new ideas, progress versus tradition, finding love, looking for adventure, the importance of literacy and learning.

Who would like this book?
People interested in learning more about African culture, books about books, and slow-paced, character driven books.

Did you say this review had something to do with bookfool?
I thought I could mimic her humorous, self-questioning book review style, but I added no humor and could hardly come up with any questions. I have even more admiration for her great reivews now. Maybe I don't talk to myself as much as I thought I did? Or I am not as interesting as I thought I was?

also reviewed by Robin and Alison


  1. I have never heard of this book before... And, I think you did a fine job talking to yourself... You know, if you are really good at talking to yourself, psychiatrists tend to become involved, so it is probably a good think to just be okay at it. lol

  2. I enjoyed this one, too - your review reminded me that I was going to see if she had any other books out.

  3. I loved your review!! When I first started my blog, I thought I'd do book reports in the old schooldays way, but ended up just using the words, 'book report' and veering way, way off that track. I think you did a terrific job with much wit and humo(u)r!

  4. kaliana - thanks, and since I teach high school, I am used to talking and having no one respond, so it feels like I talk to myself all the time.

    carrie - thanks, does she have more books? I'd read another, she had a nice easy style

    nan - thanks, some book reviews lend themselves to different styles of review. It's like the style of the book itself demands a certain review.
    My favourite part is how you inserted the 'u'. You really are part Canadian!

  5. What a great idea for the What a Animal Challenge! I have 3 books to go, I may end up borrowing this idea from you.

  6. Great review. I've been wanting to read this one!

  7. She does have two other books out: The Distance Between Us and Staircase of a Thousand Steps - I'm adding them to my wish list.


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