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Children's Fiction Politics & Government

Book Uncle and Me

by (author) Uma Krishnaswami

illustrated by Julianna Swaney

Groundwood Books Ltd
Initial publish date
Sep 2016
Politics & Government, Friendship, Asia
Recommended Age
7 to 10
Recommended Grade
2 to 5
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2016
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2018
    List Price
  • Downloadable audio file

    Publish Date
    Feb 2021
    List Price
  • Downloadable audio file

    Publish Date
    Feb 2021
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2016
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


Winner of the International Literacy Association Social Justice Literature Award
An award-winning middle-grade novel about the power of grassroots activism and how kids can make a difference.

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

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 blue belt in karate. And she has family and neighbors. What’s more, she has an idea that came right out of the last book she borrowed from Book Uncle.

So Yasmin and her friends get to work. Ideas grow like cracks in the sidewalk, and soon the whole effort is breezing along nicely... Or is it spinning right out of control?

An energetic, funny and quirky story about community activism, friendship, and the love of books.

Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:

Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.

Distinguish their own point of view from that of the narrator or those of the characters.

Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize the text.

About the authors

Uma Krishnaswami's inspiration for this book came from her memory of planting a mango seed as a child and seeing it grow into a tree, and also from a news story about people who planted trees in potholes. She has written many children's books, from picture books to middle grade readers to retellings of classic tales and myths, including Bringing Asha Home (CCBC Choices), The Happiest Tree (Paterson Prize finalist, CCBC Choices, Bank Street College Best Books), Naming Maya (IRA Notable Books for a Global Society) and Chachaji's Cup (Paterson Prize for Books for Young People, Bank Street College Best Books). Her latest middle grade novel, The Grand Plan to Fix Everything, published by Atheneum, received starred reviews in Kirkus and School Library Journal. She teaches at Vermont College of Fine Arts in the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults and is an active blogger. Uma was born in New Delhi, India, and now lives in Aztec, New Mexico.

Uma Krishnaswami's profile page

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

Julianna Swaney's profile page


  • Commended, Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices List
  • Commended, Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Books of the Year
  • Winner, International Literacy Association Social Justice Literature Award
  • Commended, Little Free Library Action Book Club Selection
  • Commended, USBBY's Outstanding International Books List
  • Commended, OLA Best Bets Top Ten
  • Commended, NPR's Guide to 2016's Great Reads

Excerpt: Book Uncle and Me (by (author) Uma Krishnaswami; illustrated by Julianna Swaney)

I go zig-zig-zag, off on my daily mission.

Mind the crooked tree. Mind the istri lady with her iron and heap of clothes. Mind the broken pavement and the pigeons cooling their feathers in mud puddles. Watch-watch-watch…

And here it is! Book Uncle’s Lending Library on the corner of St. Mary’s Road and 1st Cross Street, with books spread out on planks of wood and a small tin can for donations. Just to help out, if anyone wants to.

Here is the sign in faded old letters:

Books. Free.
Give One.
Take One.

Editorial Reviews

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

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

[Readers] will surely be charmed by Yasmin’s upbeat personality and determination.

Horn Book

Other titles by Uma Krishnaswami

Other titles by Julianna Swaney