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A Girl Named Disaster
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Gr 6-9‘For Nhamo, an 11-year-old Shona girl living in Mozambique in 1981, life is filled with the traditions of her village people. When family circumstances, a ngozi (angry spirit), and a cholera epidemic force her into a horrible marriage, she flees with only her grandmother's blessings, some gold nuggets, and many survival skills. Still, what should have been a two-day boat trip across the border to her father's family in Zimbabwe spans a year. Daily conversations with spirits help to combat her loneliness and provide her with sage and practical advice. The most incredible leg of her journey is spent on an island where Nhamo closely observes and is warily accepted by a baboon family only to have one of them destroy her shelter and food supply. She makes mistakes, loses heart, and nearly dies of starvation. Even after she arrives in Zimbabwe where she lives with scientists before meeting her father's family, Nhamo must learn to survive in civilization and exorcise the demons that haunt her. A cast of characters, glossary, background information on South Africa and the Shona, and a bibliography ground this novel's details and culture. This story is humorous and heartwrenching, complex and multilayered, and the fortunate child who reads it will place Nhamo alongside Zia (Island of the Dolphins) and Julie (Julie of the Wolves). An engrossing and memorable saga.‘Susan Pine, New York Public Library

This 1997 Newbery Honor book, which is set in Africa, is both a survival story and a spiritual voyage. "[The heroine] is a stunning creation‘while she serves as a fictional ambassador from a foreign culture, she is supremely human. An unforgettable work," said PW in a starred review. Ages 10-14. (Mar.)

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