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The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm

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3.86  ·  Rating details ·  15,282 ratings  ·  864 reviews
General Matsika's children steal out of the house on a forbidden adventure--and disappear. In Zimbabwe, in the year 2194, the children's parents call in Africa's most unusual detectives--the Ear, the Eye and the Arm--who have powers far beyond those of other human beings. The children must avoid the evils of the past, the technology of the future, and a motley assortment o ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 311 pages
Published October 1st 1995 by Puffin (first published March 1st 1994)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
Rating details
 ·  15,282 ratings  ·  864 reviews


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Marielle
Aug 06, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: childrens
I enjoyed this book, but it had problems.

The story is about a group of 3 children who go out into the world and get kidnapped. Excessively. They get kidnapped, and escape, and then kidnapped again, and escape, over and over again. To the point where it stops being believable.

The other problem is that the author set out to write a sci-fi novel. I know this, because she says so in the introduction. It is not a sci-fi novel. The book has a bunch of stock sci-fi features, but they are randomly stuc
...more
Brendan W.
Sep 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: awesome
This book is amazing. Period. End of story.
Last year, when I was strolling through the classroom library, I came upon this book. I saw the cover and I said, "This is the best cover ever." Others may disagree with that statement, but I'm me and I thought it looked awesome. I decided to give it a shot. BAM! It blew me away. KAPOW! It knocked my socks off. ZIP! I read it so fast because it was so FREAKING AWESOME! This author, Nancy Farmer, does a FANTASTIC job developing the characters in separat
...more
Kevin Xu
Jan 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I first read this book back a little over ten years ago on the recommendation of my English teacher. One of the best young adult book I have ever read. The best parts are all the characters are so fresh and lively, the settling is top to none. It is a book that is felt with everything for me. A book that just grabs the reader right in and never lets go. I never felt I was in Africa at all.

Farmer is a great writer that I see rise with more Middle School readers reading her later books, especially
...more
Abby
Feb 07, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: teen, sf
I really appreciated that the fact that this SF novel was set in Zimbabwe and actually incorporated myths and traditions from Zimbabwean culture into the story -- very few SF novels take place in non-Western settings and feature non-white protagonists, almost no teen SF novels do this. Another strong point was the nuanced depiction of Resthaven, the seemingly idyllic throwback to premodern Africa hidden in the heart of the city -- Farmer deftly demonstrates to young readers that it is foolish to ...more
Anna
Feb 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: No one
This book has taken me about a year to finish. It' odd though because the story or the writing kept drawing me back in. I found it difficult to build sympathy for the characters. The detectives hired to find the lost children are bumbling oafs and are always one step behind. The children themselves are thrust into the same scenario of "captured"/"escaped" over and over again. I can't truly explain what is missing from this book - I think it may be the lack of backstory or the inability to define ...more
Julie
I think I’m in a bit of a reading slump, because even this middle-grade book took far too long for me to read. I’m on a vague quest to read Newbery books that I haven’t before, though, so I was glad to round out my collection with this. Mostly, I’m so impressed that this was so diverse for a book published in the 1990s, because it’s a nice piece of Afro-futurism, entirely set in Zimbabwe, with an almost all-black cast and some historically-grounded mystical elements etc.

It reminded me a bit of A
...more
Greg Kerestan
May 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Young adult novel? Check. Zimbabwean backwoods journey? Check. Cyberpunk futurist setting? Check. You don't get a lot of books that hit all three of those points- this may be the only one. As a fifth grader I wasn't entirely sure what to make of this novel, but it grew on me as I read. There are elements I remember to this day: the house full of taxidermies; the mile-high hotel skyscraper; the multiethnic mutated detectives. The writing isn't entirely polished, but this book still gets high poin ...more
Drew
Aug 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Great memories of this book, if only because it was so different from anything else I'd read at age 12 or so. I'd hate to read it again and have those memories ruined, but I still kind of want to. Because dystopian Zimbabwe, supernatural detectives, and spirits in masks.
Keegan
Dec 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I LOVED IT
Kori Morris
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the book a lot - the author tried to pay homage to real traditions and beloefs as much as possible. My main gripe with the book is that the villains seem unnecessarily vile and vicious without any depth.
Jackie B. - Death by Tsundoku
Set in Zimbabwe, 2194, Farmer crafts a future Africa which has conquered the globe. Zimbabwe plays host to communities segregated by wealth and culture, such as the African Shona tribe and the English or Portuguese tribes. Famer's Zimbabwe is a rising power, largely critical of the post-colonial race the country currently is experiencing. In fact, race and skin color are barely addressed in this book at all. Instead, Farmer explores ideas of personal, cultural, and spiritual identity with superf ...more
Christina
Jan 20, 2011 rated it liked it
This was a really (junior high level) amazing foray into ideas about identity, belonging, and cultural purity/evolution. The amazing detectives (named in the title) who discover, ultimately and by accident, the whereabouts of the Security Chief's kidnapped children are blessed/cursed with special abilities as a result of a radioactive accident in their anscestor's past. This futuristic novella dares to set itself in the (probable?) world of 22nd century Zimbabwe. Surprisingly, matters of color a ...more
Greta
Sep 28, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
Shelves: books-i-hated
This book really annoyed me. In my opinion it had an underbelly of fear and disrespect for Africa that was masked by a story narrative that was good in many respects...(don't let that fool you). Some of the most memorable images of this book include: grown African men peeing in their loincloths when they become startled by a boy, back to African community members eating fried mice,African people hating women, and African people killing babies. The big baddies of the book are dark, gangs of peopl ...more
Jo
Jan 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Re-reading. Holds up pretty well, but I remembered a lot more of this book taking place in the garbage dump. There was no reason for this to take place in the future, the robots were weirdly ancillary to the story which could easily be set in an alternate universe with magic.
Nancy
Feb 12, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2009
Okay, I definitely expected more from this book.

1. Where was the mystery? I thought it would be some intense plot filled with true villains who wanted to overthrow the government, or a group of outsiders who want to take revenge against the general by kidnapping his kids. I have this thing called an imagination and I thought, judging from House of the Scorpions, Farmer would be throwing some twists and turns here.

2. As much as I liked the adventure, it was just too much. They encounter scenari
...more
Mikhail
Jan 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It's always a risk to go and re-read something you read as a kid. What if the writing is bad? What if the ideas have aged poorly? What if you hate it? This makes it all the more significant when you find, instead, that this is better than you remember.

There's quite a lot to chew in this book, but I'll mention two aspects. First, this is very much a kind of Boy's First Cyberpunk. Actually, I might say it's one of the best examples of the genre, if not precisely what people think of when they use
...more
Cindy
Jun 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya, 2010, sci-fi, book-club
This is like 4 books in one. The first is the story of three kids, living a sheltered and rather boring life, who set off on a series of adventures. The second is a sci-fi look at what life might be like in a future Africa, with robots and mutants and mile high buildings. The third is a mystery with three unusual detectives searching for some kidnapped children. And the last book is a examination of what happens when modern people try to return to a traditionally tribal way of life. How much you ...more
Margaret
This sat on my to-read shelf for a while, and it shouldn't have, because it's one of the best young adult novels I've read in a while. It's set in Zimbabwe in 2194, where the three children of the powerful General Matsika are forbidden to leave their home for fear of kidnapping. Longing to experience the outside world, the three children figure out how to get out...and disappear. Their parents call in an unusual set of detectives, three people whose unusual physical characteristics have been pro ...more
Maureen
Mar 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
So there is this show on the Travel Channel where this guy goes to exotic places and eats foods that would make most Americans barf, and he was in Madagascar eating bugs and antelope entrails and his wife, who travels with him, "got" to help the women do all the work of cooking this nasty-smelling stew and and serving the men while they sat on a blanket and told stories, and the show reminded me so much of the scene where Rita and Tendai eat their first meal in Resthaven that I had to go to the ...more
Josiah
Mar 11, 2009 rated it liked it
"I am one for whom dangers are playthings
One who empties men of their strength
As a nut from its shell
The charms you use I chop up
For relish on my porridge
Beware!
I am a deadly mamba!
Wrestler of leopards,
A hive of hornets,
A man among men!"

—Traditional African warrior boast, The Ear, the Eye and the Arm, P. 268

Nancy Farmer always seems to write magnificent tales full of solid, knowable characters and a lively plot that thickens and twists at unexpected spots. This book is an early exampl
...more
Phil Jensen
About half as good as The House of the Scorpion. I might have liked this book more if I didn't know that Farmer is capable of better.

There is an inescapable PG-ness to the plot that lowers the stakes of the whole book. There is really no doubt about where the character arcs will end and how the story will turn out. As a result, the setting has to carry the interest level of the whole book. Farmer does put out some amazing settings, with some great commentary on the pros and cons of different cul
...more
E.M. E-M
Jan 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
first book of 2008. what a remarkable position to hold...

i remember loving this book in middle school. still enjoyed it now, though recognized some new/questionable elements. generally good narrative and some very interesting characterizations of zimbabwe 2194. was particularly intrigued by the over-simplified but largely critical portrayal of the post-colonial race and class warfare of the southern African future... especially interesting was depiction of domestic workers and power relations i
...more
Andrew Hudson
The three children of a broadly benign dictator, General Matsika, languish within the protected compound that is their home, forbidden from all but the most proscriptive exposure to the world outside for fear of offering their father's enemies an opportunity to kidnap or kill them, and lay him low.

Empathetic Tendai, his thorny sister Rita, and their young brother Kuda long for an unrestricted taste of the rich world beyond those walls: Harare, capital of Zimbabwe, where life is really lived - no
...more
McKenna Colver
Jun 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: engl-420
Tendai, his sister Rita, and his brother Kuda, against the wishes and warnings of their strict and influential parents, go out into the world away from their house so they can explore. Unfortunately, not long after they make it to the market, they are kidnapped and taken to the She Elephant, who plans to sell them to the Masks. To get their children back, Tendai's parents hire the help of three strange detectives whose powers came from the nuclear waste of the power plant near their village; the ...more
Amber Scaife
Jul 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Set in Zimbabwe in the 2194, the story follows the three overprotected siblings of General Matsika, who leave their mansion to explore the city for the first time. They are nearly immediately kidnapped, forced into slavery, and then escape only to find themselves held against their will in three other, very different circumstances before finally finding their way back to their parents and safety with the help of three detectives with incredible special abilities.
This Newbery Honor Book has an i
...more
Addie
Nov 05, 2017 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jontiqua McMillan
This book was amazing! the book is about three children living with their African family and the family has super powers to save them in all types of ways. There are three detectives which are eye, ear and arm. and they work secret powers. I would recommend this book third to fifth grade. Great read anytime even outside of school. The two ideas I have and take from this book is its story quality and you could relate the book to black history month in your classroom. Definitely was a WOW book.
Theo
May 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, sci-fi
The story itself was very fun, but I'll admit I remember very little of it. The real story lies in the time when I began reading this - I was in middle school. My mom would read it to me before bed. Time happened, and we never finished it. Until now, a week after graduating college, we took turns reading it until we had finished it!
David Narez
it was a mythology book with a lot of interesting twists
Eva
Oct 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pretty-fantastic
3.5/5
A far better futuristic dystopian than The Giver, in my opinion. Why wasn't I made to read this in 7th grade instead of that? The writing wasn't too elaborate, and therefore easy to understand, and African lore was obviously researched well for this book. The author did a respectful job of keeping the culture whilst simultaneously adding some interesting twists like holophones and robot maids. This book has actually been on my shelves for years but I never got around to reading it until no
...more
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Nancy was born in 1941 in Phoenix and grew up in a hotel on the Arizona-Mexico border where she worked the switchboard at the age of nine. She also found time to hang out in the old state prison and the hobo jungle along the banks of the Colorado River. She attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon, earning her BA in 1963. Instead of taking a regular job, she joined the Peace Corps and was sent to ...more

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