"Anyone who reads this book will be perfectly happy..." (Ursula K. Le Guin)
American edition, published by Viking Children's Books.
To visit the Indian Edition page and see the sequel, please click here.
Three children, Sarita, Ravi and the Baby, welcome the arrival of their father's younger brother, Younguncle, the family eccentric. Younguncle comes without any formal announcement during a rainstorm, balancing a tin plate on his head and holding an earthenware cup full of rain. The linked stories each find Younguncle confronted with a problem: whether it is pickpocketry at the railway staton, or his sister's impending wedding, a kidnapped cow, or an arrogant, trigger-happy village landlord. Younguncle finds a unique and hilarious solution to each problem, with the help of the children and the local wildlife. If you like animals, uppity people, babies who eat shirts, tigers with gourmet tastes, and plenty of skullduggery, intrigue and lateral thinking --- all served up in language that is not dumbed down for kids --- then there is a non-zero probability that you will enjoy this book.
Reviews and Honors
An ALA Notable Book, 2007.
A Selection of the Junior Library Guild
Selected for New York Public Library's 2006 "100 TITLES FOR READING AND SHARING"
One of San Francisco Chronicle's "BEST BOOKS OF THE SEASON"
One of USSBY-CBC's OUTSTANDING INTERNATIONAL BOOKS, 2007.
"Lively and often hilarious tales...We can only hope that Younguncle will return."--The Horn Book
"Vandana Singh is a most promising and original young writer...From the moment Younguncle appears with his teacup full of rain, I was enchanted. And as long as I could follow him through his marvelous world to meet ... all the other extraordinary ordinary people there, I was perfectly happy. I think anyone who reads this book will be perfectly happy too."-Ursula K. Le Guin, National Book Award-winning author
"Set in contemporary India, the well-paced story is organized into episodic chapters that relate the clever and funny adventures of this unconventional character… Singh's prose is humorous and delightfully understated… No doubt readers will clamor for more stories about this zany character." -- School Library Journal
"…Younguncle's stories are heaps of fun; they're full of entertaining characters, dry humor, and a quirky sense of justice… Occasional pen-and-ink illustrations feature expressive, smoothly contoured characters amidst hilarious moments and offer further appeal for young readers and listeners. Expect Younguncle to be back for many a return engagement." The Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books
Table of Contents
1. Younguncle Comes to Town
2. Younguncle and the Pickpockets
3. Younguncle Saves His Sister from a Terrible Fate
4. Younguncle and the Monkey Summer
5. Younguncle's Village Visit
He was a long, lanky young man wearing a battered tin plate on his head as though it were a crown. The rain drummed musically on the plate, making it tip about and sparkle on his head, and from time to time, he would reach up and adjust the brim. He had an amiable smile on his face, and was looking about him with eyes full of approval, as though the rainstorm had been just the thing he had ordered with his lunch. In one hand he held a cup of tea, one of those earthen cups you still find in small-town railway stations in North India. He would sip from the cup, then hold it out into the rain, and sip again. With his other hand he was helping a rickshaw man wheel a rickshaw piled with bags and wooden cases covered with soggy newspaper. He was conversing animatedly with the rickshaw man, who was smiling broadly and gesticulating. The two men were both soaking wet, although neither of them seemed to notice. They came to a stop in front of the house.
At once the young man noticed the buffalo under the shisham tree on the other side of the lane, and greeted it solemnly. The buffalo allowed him to scratch its head and mooed conversationally, upon which the young man said something in reply, gave the animal a respectful pat, and crossed the road to the gate of the house. He opened the gate with a flourish and ushered in the rickshaw man, and they both walked up the short driveway toward the house. They came to a stop at the steps that led up to the front door. "What do you think, my friend, is this a good place for them?" said the young man, looking around him at the lush, rain-soaked garden and the dripping trees. "I think so, sir, look at all those trees! It's a much better place for them than the railway station."
At this point the young man suddenly became aware of the watching children. A big grin of delight nearly split his face in half. He waved madly, set his tea-cup down on the driveway, and leapt on to the rickshaw. He tore the newspaper wrapping off two large cases, which the children now saw, were small, crude cages made of wire and wood that seemed filled with fluttering movement. He fiddled with the cage doors and suddenly there was a great flurry of wings and colour, and birds flew out: green and yellow parakeets, tiny multi-coloured munias, doves and pigeons with iridescent wings. They flew in all directions and vanished. The baby laughed and clapped her hands. The children looked at each other and smiled, and then, lifting the baby off the sill, they all ran downstairs.
Vandana Singh grew up in New Delhi, with summer excursions to grandparents in Patna. Summers in a small town, with animals, relatives and a star-cast of eccentric characters, inspired her Younguncle novels many years later. Her younger sister, and later, her daughter, compelled her to tell stories on a near-daily basis that helped hone her writing skills. Vandana currently lives near Boston in the U.S., where she teaches college physics and writes imaginative fiction for children and adults.
B.M. Kamath is a graphic designer, sculptor, painter, ilustrator, and animator who lives and works in New Delhi, India. In between projects, he paints on walls, washes them white, and starts again. (Source: Charlesbridge.com)
Book Information and Availability
Title: YOUNGUNCLE COMES TO TOWN
Author: Vandana Singh
Illustrator: B. M. Kamath (interiors)
Imprint: Viking Children's BooksRecommended for Ages: 8 and up
Price: $14.99 (CAN $21.00)
Available at Amazon and at other fine bookstores.