Younguncle Comes to Town by Vandana Singh
I grabbed this off the shelf because of the cheerful illustrations and the slightly larger than usual font believing it would fall into that most elusive category, the early chapter book. Had I read the book jacket I would have certainly realized my mistake. Singh has a PhD in theoretical particle physics. I don’t know that this necessarily means she can’t write a simple children’s book, but it certainly explains her dropping in serious vocabulary words like mendicant, philosophical, regurgitating, consternation, cacophony and enigmatic, not to mention the reference to a dyspeptic water buffalo.
The book is a series of only vaguely related stories about Younguncle. Younguncle has arrived at the home of his nieces and nephew and regales them with stories about his past, all while trying to keep his shirt. The baby it seems has a life-long ambition to eat a shirt of Younguncle’s. Side note: I love the baby. The baby is one of the best characters. The book is quite funny in places, but I worry that younger children won’t understand the book well enough to get the humor. They will certainly appreciate the crazy monkeys however and the tiger that prefers to eat spinach paneer. For the children who can understand the vocabulary, they will not require too much background knowledge of India for the story. Most vocabulary that is specific to India refers to either trees or food which makes it pretty easy to read around it.
Sex, Nudity, Dating –Younguncle does not want a wife although others think he should marry and settle down. Younguncle’s sister is engaged to a man who is not nice, one of the stories revolves around freeing her from this engagement.
Death, Violence and Gore – A man tries to hit a monkey with a pole. A bad man and his clan use a wildlife sanctuary as their private hunting grounds. A girl is kept from escaping by an iron ring around her foot (she is rescued!) She says she would rather die than do what the bad men want her to do.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – None.
Frightening or Intense Things – There is a very active ghost in one of the stories. It’s not very scary but it is still a ghost.