Book Uncle and Me – Diversity, Connections, and Community

Uma Krishnaswami’s children’s book, Book Uncle and Me, explores the importance of children finding their voice in a community and the bond books can form with their readers. Through her book, Krishnaswami creates characters from various backgrounds and portrays how there are no barriers to friendships.

Book Uncle and Me is at another level,” says Krishnaswami, regarding the power of books.

The Fraser Valley Regional Library will host a virtual visit with Krishnaswami on Dec. 8, 2021. For over two decades, she has been a devoted author, writing and publishing books, short stories and poems for youth all around the world. Book Uncle and Me, first published in 2012, is commended as an USBBY Outstanding International Book. Through this children’s story, Krishnaswami creates a stunning book that incorporates relatable characters and fascinating narrative.

The inspiration

Book Uncle and Me’s inspiration first began when Krishnaswami was visiting her parents in India. As she walked along the streets, her eyes were drawn to a girl sitting cross-legged in the middle of a busy sidewalk, lost in a book. An election taking place at the same time the girl quietly was enjoying the novel, and the writer was inspired to put these two things together.

At its simplest form, Book Uncle and Me is about being lost in creativity. Nine-year-old Yasmin visits Book Uncle’s Lending Library to borrow books, but, one day, when Book Uncle suggests a picture book, she is disappointed. After reading the story, however, she is humbled and cannot stop thinking about it – the doves trapped in a hunter’s net working together to free themselves.

Although the main character of the book, Yasmin, has elements of the writer within her, the largest difference is ethnicity: while Yasmin’s family is Muslim, Krishnaswami herself is Hindu.

“I wanted to write a story where kids of different backgrounds and faiths could be friends and religion didn’t get in the way,” she says.

Krishnaswami sheds light on the importance of inclusion while having a strong sense of community. The photo of a lizard illustrates Krishnaswami’s goals of finding positive change within a community. The artifact is a model of a lizard. As a kid, she was actually scared of the creature, but growing up, she has now overcome this fear.

A writer is born

Born in India, Krishnaswami grew up all over the country, living in whatever places her father’s job took the family.

Book Uncle and Me.| Photo courtesy of Uma Krishnaswami

“Looking back, I think it gave me windows into so many beautiful places in northern and western India, and in the foothills of the Himalayas,” she says, reflecting on her nomad-like upbringing.

Krishnaswami was an early reader and already an avid writer. On her father’s old manual typewriter, she would crank out stories and poems, then send them off to magazines for review. Finally, as a culmination of consistent revision and constant practice, one of her poems was accepted and published—she was an author at age 13! Despite this achievement, Krishnaswami did not think she could become a writer. When she became a parent however, she was imbued with the inspiration that real live people could write children’s books. Ever since 1994, she has been writing for young readers across the globe.

Her mission for freedom and inclusivity fits well with that of Book Uncle and Me. Krishnaswami hopes readers will gain a new appreciation of friends and books. As well as that, she encourages more youth to start thinking about what matters in their communities and how to use their voice to create positive change.

When asked what message Krishnaswami hopes to convey through her book, she responds: “Be kind, read generously, think before you speak and don’t be afraid to chase your dreams,” she says.

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