This new book has been getting lots of buzz (author NPR interview, article in LA Times, etc.) and deservedly so. Adichie paints a colorful and moving...moreThis new book has been getting lots of buzz (author NPR interview, article in LA Times, etc.) and deservedly so. Adichie paints a colorful and moving picture of life for two expatriate Nigerians, who meet in high school and fall in love. When they are separated, one moving to London and the other to the US to escape a military dictatorship at home, their relationship falls apart, as they are both changed by their experiences. Adichie's protagonist, Ifemelu, is trying to finish university in the US, and becomes a famous if anonymous blogger commenting on the impressions of a non-American black on race issues in the US. This all takes place against the backdrop of Obama's first run for the presidency. Her canvas encompasses everything from white liberals in Princeton and New Haven to undocumented immigrants who scrub bathrooms when they are university graduates in their native countries. She writes with wit and pathos about contemporary Africa and the United States. Highly recommended.(less)
Veteran travel writer Paul Theroux takes his last trip to Africa in this moving but ultimately depressing travelogue. He travels from Cape Town to Ang...moreVeteran travel writer Paul Theroux takes his last trip to Africa in this moving but ultimately depressing travelogue. He travels from Cape Town to Angola, up the West Coast of Africa, experiencing travel like the locals do, with the exception of a foray to one of the most expensive safari campus in Africa ($4,000/day per couple!) where rich Western tourists ride trained elephants in the Botswana bush. He ends up in Angola, where oil millionaires live in luxury while most of the population lives in urban slums of unimaginable squalor, in a country that's now devoid of wildlife after decades of civil war. A soul-searching travelogue in which Theroux questions the purpose and meaning of his own travel adventures. Well worth reading, especially for those with an interest in Africa. (less)
This is a great series, especially for those who love the First Ladies Detective Agency. A grittier view of Botswana. A loveable detective, Kubu, with...moreThis is a great series, especially for those who love the First Ladies Detective Agency. A grittier view of Botswana. A loveable detective, Kubu, with an appealing family and great supporting characters. (less)
Having recently returned from my first trip to Africa, I was eager to read this new novel by author Shana Burg which takes place in Malawi. Thirteen-y...moreHaving recently returned from my first trip to Africa, I was eager to read this new novel by author Shana Burg which takes place in Malawi. Thirteen-year old Clare has just suffered one of the worst losses a child can imagine--her mother has died, leaving her family consisting of just her and her father, a doctor who seems to care about everyone else more than Clare. At least that's the way she feels when he up and moves the two of them to rural Malawi for several months, where he will be working at the local hospital and she will attend the local village school.
But this novel is more than a "fish out of water" story as Clare struggles to adapt to a completely foreign environment and lifestyle, where she has no cell phone coverage, must wear a totally unfashionable school uniform, and live literally in the middle of the jungle, with no condos, buses, or restaurants. She's so angry with her dad that she's giving him the silent treatment. But eventually the people of Malawi break through her broken heart, helping her to heal.
Burg, who has worked in Malawi herself with Save the Children, manages to capture the many wonders of Africa--the spirit of the people, the beauties of the landscape and animals, and the crushing poverty. Young girls will identify with Clare trying to fit in with the local girls--gossiping about boys and who likes whom seems to be a universally popular occupation--as well as her sorrows and achievements during her trip. And they'll be amazed at how the children in the local school manage with hardly any textbooks (which must be taken for safekeeping from school every day so they won't be stolen), paper, desks, or other ordinary school supplies that we take for granted, even sculpting letters out of termite mounds. Clare, like everyone else who visits Africa, I suspect, is the not the same person when she leaves.
This novel manages to combine humor (naughty monkeys and pet chickens, in particular) with the poignancy of loss in a way which is appealing to the target audience. Burg also manages to teach many lessons about Africa in a subtle manner, without seeming didactic
An author's note explains about the author's trip to Africa to investigate conditions in schools in Malawi and also discusses the challenges of medical care in this very poor country. She also includes a recipe for a Malawi treat and a glossary of Chichewa words that appear in the text. I would have liked to see a map of Africa which would have situated Malawi for the young readers, and possibly a list of nonprofits that accept contributions for medical or school projects, in the case that young people are inspired to help out for these very worthy causes as part of the back matter.
This would be a great book to add to school and public library collections--it's a contemporary story in an exotic setting that should definitely appeal to tween readers. (less)
Another fun story about Mma Ramotswe and her life. In this one she and her Associate Detective sidekick meet the author of the private detective handb...moreAnother fun story about Mma Ramotswe and her life. In this one she and her Associate Detective sidekick meet the author of the private detective handbook that serves as their Bible in solving cases. (less)
This new historical fiction title is inspired by the life of aviatrix Beryl Markham, the first woman pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic from East t...moreThis new historical fiction title is inspired by the life of aviatrix Beryl Markham, the first woman pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic from East to West (considered more challenging than flying East because of prevailing winds). Novelist Michaela Maccoll intersperses the story of Beryl's historic 1936 voyage with Beryl's life as a ten-year old growing up in what is now Kenya, where she lived with her English father on a horse ranch, her mother having abandoned them years before. Her life as a child is filled with endless adventures--attacks by leopards, forbidden treks into the forest with a boy from the local tribe, Kibbi, who becomes her friend and teaches her to wrestle and track and hunt animals. Indeed, she is virtually adopted by the native tribe who take her in as one of their own, allowing her to train to be a "warrior" despite her sex and accepting her as an honorary member of the Nandi tribe.
The novel jumps back and forth between the youthful Beryl's adventures both at home and later in boarding school and a variety of diary entries, fictitious press articles and interviews about her cross-Atlantic flight. I found the parts in Africa much more engaging and vivid than the snippets about her flight; the two themes don't really seem to be tied together, since we don't learn about the beginnings of her interests in flight in the sections in which Beryl is a child. However, Maccoll paints an appealing picture of an adventurous spirit who can't resist a dare, a girl who is more comfortable in boys' clothing and who longs to be a hunter of lions rather than a proper young English lady. It's a good choice for those looking for a colorful adventure story that could appeal to girls as well as boys.
Those interested in learning more about the real Beryl can check out her memoir, West With the Night (North Point Press, 1982), which was praised by none other than Ernest Hemingway, who remarked about Markham's writing, "she can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers," or the young adult biography Beryl Markham: Never Turn Back, by Catherine Gourley (Red Wheel, 1997).
In addition, Maccoll includes an author's note providing further details on the real Beryl's life as well as additional suggestions for further reading. (less)
A beautifully written and moving story perfect for animal lovers of all ages. A rare Scottish osprey pair makes a home on a Scottish farm, leading to...moreA beautifully written and moving story perfect for animal lovers of all ages. A rare Scottish osprey pair makes a home on a Scottish farm, leading to an unlikely friendship between two children. As the female bird migrates to its winter home in Africa, the story expands to include a young girl in Africa as well. An easy and quick read but very engaging. (less)
A Long Walk to Water is based on the true story of Salva, one of a group of Sudanese "Lost Boys" who eventually emigrated to the United States in the...moreA Long Walk to Water is based on the true story of Salva, one of a group of Sudanese "Lost Boys" who eventually emigrated to the United States in the mid-1990's. Park's account of Salva's life begins in 1985, when Salva is eleven years old. Things were good for Salva's family before the civil war; his family was affluent, with many heads of cattle, and could afford to send each of their sons to school. But because Salva's at school when the war comes to his village, he is separated from the rest of his family, and begins a long and brutal journey by foot to safety. Meeting up with members of his Dinka tribe, he joins their group, walking east toward Ethiopia.
During the journey, he must confront hungry lions, scarce water, crossing the Nile in hand-made canoes, swarms of mosquitos, and the most difficult part of their journey: crossing the unforgiving Akobo desert. He spends six years in the Ethiopian refugee camp, before their government decides to close the camp, driving the residents with guns out of the camp and across the Gilo River, well known for its crocodiles. Miraculously surviving the crossing, Salva makes up his mind to walk to Kenya--and becomes the de facto leader of a group of about 1,500 boys, some as young as five. More than 1,200 arrived safely in Kenya, including Salva.
While in Kenya, Salva learns to read and speak English from an Irish aid worker, and eventually is chosen to be part of a special initiative to airlift over 3,000 boys and young men to America. Resettled in Rochester, New York, Salva goes on to found Water for Sudan, a non-profit which brings clean water to the parched regions of the south of his country.
Alternating with Salva's story, Park weaves in the story of a contemporary girl in Sudan, Nya, who must walk for eight hours each day to fetch water for her family, water which sometimes is contaminated and bears diseases. At the end, their two stories intersect, bringing hope, clean water, and education to Nya's village.
This slim but unforgettable book (120 pages) tells Salva and Nya's stories in a spare style, with no wasted words or descriptions. Like many stories about Holocaust victims, this book celebrates the tenacity of the human spirit, capable of maintaining hope and finally triumphing over incredible adversity. It's a story you won't quickly be able to forget, and I would highly recommend it for adults, teens, and children over ten. Park includes an afterword by Salva Dut himself which provides some information on his project, Water for Sudan, and an author's note with additional historical background on the civil war in Sudan. (less)
This is an extraordinary book--a combination memoir, animal behavior book, and book about African politics rolled into one amazing story of a young wo...moreThis is an extraordinary book--a combination memoir, animal behavior book, and book about African politics rolled into one amazing story of a young woman who marries a primate researcher and finds herself living in the Congo at a bonobo reserve. She writes with unusual humor, pathos, and good sense about bonobos (a close relative of both humans and chimpanzees but a separate species)and how they help us understand what makes us human. The contrast between the loving, peaceful society of the bonobos and the horrible atrocities committed in the Congo is part of what makes this book so compelling. It's one not only for animal lovers--although if you are an animal lover you will want to be on the next plane to the Congo to visit these endearing creatures. It's a book that's a terrific read for anyone interested in human nature. Highly recommended. (less)
This was a beautiful and haunting story about two women, one a British woman from a "posh" background who works as a magazine editor for a London fash...moreThis was a beautiful and haunting story about two women, one a British woman from a "posh" background who works as a magazine editor for a London fashion magazine, the other a girl from a village in Nigeria, whose village has been destroyed by evil soldiers. Against all odds they meet on a beach in Nigeria, and both lives are forever changed. An unforgettable story that is hard to put down. (less)