Do You Know Meby Nancy Farmer, Jackson
Although he is continually getting into trouble, Tapiwa's uncle becomes her best friend when he comes from Mozambique to live with her family in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyFirst-time novelist Farmer serves up a genial family tale with an out-of-the-ordinary setting: Zimbabwe. Fleeing bandits in his Mozambique village, Tapiwa's Uncle Zeka has come to stay. Bush-savvy but unversed in city ways, this unusual gentleman proves just the breath of fresh air the nine-year-old needs to spice up her lonely routine--middle-class Tapiwa attends an elite girls' school and is roundly ignored by her snooty classmates. Uncle Zeka is gleefully unpredictable, naive to the point of being marginally dangerous and brimming with wild schemes. He's also thoroughly devoted to Tapiwa, and she to him. With his niece in tow, Uncle Zeka commits a string of social faux pas and gets into one scrape after another, from termite-hunting and impersonating beggars to a (literally) smashing finale in which Zeka outsmarts Tapiwa's insufferable Aunt Rudo and ends up driving her Mercedes into a mine shaft (he emerges intact and triumphant). Jackson's spirited black-and-white illustrations exhibit a distinctive personality of their own while adding zest to this pair's adventures. Farmer, who spent 17 years in Mozambique and Zimbabwe, is clearly a born storyteller--in this impressive first book she displays an astute ear for dialogue, a deft hand with plot twists and a keen, dry wit. Tapiwa could be the girl next door; she is also a most interesting window on a culture seldom seen in children's books. Ages 8-10. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Marilyn CourtotUncle Zeka changed everything. Tapiwa was not particularly happy with her life until her poor uncle from Mozambique arrives in a police car at their doorstep in Harare. Tapiwa was the poorest but smartest girl in her private school. Snubbed by the others, she had no friends to share her days with. Uncle Zeka who knew nothing about city ways tries to make himself useful, but more often than not he and Tapiwa get themselves into a muddle. The close knit family, social classification and native lore are all intertwined in this comic tale told by a real storyteller. 1994 (orig.
School Library Journal - School Library JournalGr 3-5-- When Uncle Zeka comes to live with nine-year-old Tapiwa's middle-class family in Harare, Zimbabwe, he regales the child with stories of prospecting for gold and living by his wits and his knowledge of nature. Unfortunately, his activities in his new home lead to mishaps, as he eats poisoned caterpillars, sets the grass on fire, and unleashes a swarm of bees. His exploits amuse and sometimes embarrass Tapiwa, but his self-confidence and his devotion to her help her to stand up for herself at school. Other family members also learn humility and understanding as they come to terms with their village relative. Universal themes such as the differences between country and city, between traditional and modern ways, and among the social classes are central to this novel. Uncle Zeka is a variation of the trickster hero who appears frequently in the folklore of southern Africa. Humor is used effectively, with the illustrations reinforcing the story at key points. The novel is not without flaws, however, the most critical being the author's reliance upon caricatures rather than full characterizations. Tapiwa's Aunt Rudo, the wife of a government minister, is the most striking example; there is nothing redeeming in this selfish, unattractive villainess. Her husband, a chronic speechmaker, is no more sympathetic, nor are any of Tapiwa's wealthy schoolmates. Readers at the lower end of the book's age range will probably enjoy Uncle Zeka and Tapiwa's struggle against the ``sophisticated'' bad guys in their lives, but older readers will want a more complex story. --Lyn Miller-Lachmann, Siena College Library, Loudonville, NY
Janice Del NegroNine-year-old Tapiwa's Uncle Zeka has come all the way from his rural village in Mozambique to live with her family in Harare, Zimbabwe. The resulting culture clash between the rural, "natural" Zeka and his urban neighbors is the basis for a series of humorous misadventures in which Tapiwa (sometimes unwillingly) participates. When Uncle Zeka takes an unauthorized joy ride in a relative's Mercedes, Tapiwa's father decides he is too much to handle. In a bittersweet conclusion, Zeka becomes a "human resource" for a medical clinic in a remote area. The doctor calls Zeka a national treasure because he knows information that "everyone thought was lost." But Tapiwa knows it is unlikely she will see her uncle anytime in the future, as her father's car is "too old to make such a difficult trip again." The author spent 17 years living in Mozambique and Zimbabwe, and her submersion in the cultures is apparent. The humor is broad, with slapstick elements that will appeal to children, and Tapiwa develops a genuine regard for her uncle, appreciating the very qualities that make others see him as "unsuitable." With black-and-white illustrations, this is another title to add to libraries interested in cultural plurality.
- Scholastic, Inc.
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.30(w) x 9.26(h) x 0.50(d)
- Age Range:
- 8 - 10 Years
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