From School Library Journal
Grade 7 Up?It is the year 2194 in Harare, Zimbabwe. When the three over-protected children of General Amadeus Matsika are kidnapped, they learn that their country is a land of contrasts. Wealthy people live in homes staffed by robots and protected by automatic dobermans, while the poor live in a neighborhood known as The Cow's Guts, mining for plastic within the tunnels of Dead Man's Vlei (a toxic waste dump). Resthaven is an enclave for people who cling to the ancient traditions, beliefs, and customs of the Shona tribe, but the nearby MacIlwaine Hotel is a mile-high vertical city of apartments, schools, clinics, and supermarkets. As the children journey from one predicament to another, three unlikely detectives from an agency known as The Ear, the Eye and the Arm attempt to rescue them. Narrator George Guidall does a brilliant job of conveying the complex natures of a wide range of characters. Without resorting to vocal stereotypes, he portrays military generals, adolescent girls, gang thugs, fey tutors, ancient spirit mediums and small boys with equal skill. Coached by the author herself, he has mastered the pronunciation of vocabulary from the Shona, Xhosa, Zulu and Afrikaans languages. With its blend of high-tech futurism and authentic African tribal folklore, Nancy Farmer's Newbery Honor Book (Orchard, 1994) is an exciting selection for recorded fiction. This story will challenge young adult readers?and listeners?to think about their own lives and futures.Margaret Rigg Myhre, Cataldo Catholic School, Spokane, WA
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Gr. 7-10. Even readers who don't like sf will be drawn to a hero who has a sense of humor about his serious mission. In Zimbabwe in the year 2194, the military ruler's 13-year-old son and his younger brother and sister leave their technologically overcontrolled home and find themselves on a series of perilous adventures. Tendai and his siblings encounter mile-high buildings and other miracles of scientific advance; they also find fetid slums and toxic waste dumps. As they're kidnapped by gangsters, forced to slave in a plastic mine, and accused of witchcraft, they're pursued by mutant detectives, who are both bumbling and sensitive and who always seem to be just one step behind rescuing the children. In the best section, the siblings find themselves in a traditional Shona village that at first seems idyllic but turns out to also encompass fierce sexism, ignorance, and disease. Throughout the story, it's the thrilling adventure that will grab readers, who will also like the comic, tender characterizations, not only of the brave, defiant trio and the absurd detectives, but also of nearly every one the kids meet, from street gangsters and spiritual healers to the English tribespeople with their weird customs. Tendai's spiritual coming-of-age is the least interesting part of the novel, but teens will like this teenager with "a hot line to the spirit world." Hazel Rochman
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