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A Girl Named Disaster

A Girl Named Disaster

4.4 71
by Nancy Farmer

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This Newbery Honor book by award-winning, bestselling author Nancy Farmer is being reissued in paperback!

Eleven-year-old Nhamo lives in a traditional village in Mozambique, where she doesn't quite fit in. When her family tries to force her into marrying a cruel man, she runs away to Zimbabwe, hoping to find the father she's never met. But what should have been


This Newbery Honor book by award-winning, bestselling author Nancy Farmer is being reissued in paperback!

Eleven-year-old Nhamo lives in a traditional village in Mozambique, where she doesn't quite fit in. When her family tries to force her into marrying a cruel man, she runs away to Zimbabwe, hoping to find the father she's never met. But what should have been a short boat trip across the border turns into a dangerous year-long adventure, and Nhamo must summon her innermost courage to ensure her survival.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

* "An unforgettable work." -- Publishers Weekly, starred review

• "Rewarding." -- Kirkus Reviews, starred review

• "This story is humorous and heart wrenching, complex and multilayered. . . . An engrossing and memorable saga." -- School Library Journal, starred review


Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This 1997 Newbery Honor book, which is set in Africa, is both a survival story and a spiritual voyage. "[The heroine] is a stunning creationwhile 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.)
The ALAN Review - Teri S. Lesesne
When a cholera epidemic rampages through her village, Nhamo feels partly to blame. After all, a girl whose name translates as "disaster" must have drawn the sickness. Nhamo's family pledges her in marriage to assuage the evil spirits that have caused the illness. Hers will be a loveless marriage: her husband-to-be is more than twice Nhamo's twelve years of age, and so Nhamo flees, seeking refuge with her long-lost father in Zimbabwe. Her trip is fraught with perils, though her adventure serves to strengthen her resolve to become an independent woman. This absorbing tale provides a satisfying knowledge of the culture and customs of Africa in much the same way as Farmer did in The Ear, the Eye and the Arm. This Newbery Honor book and semifinalist for the National Book Award would pair well with Call It Courage and other such stories.
Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
This story of the physical and spiritual journey of a young Shona girl will keep readers enthralled until the very last page. Nhamo is faced with an impending marriage to a horrible man who already has a few wives. She decides, with the encouragement of her grandmother, to escape to her father's family in Zimbabwe. It is a trip that should have taken days, but it ends up taking a year. That Nhamo survives and eventually finds a better life for herself is a testament to her courage and character. It is a truly fascinating saga and deserved to be a Newbery Honor book.
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9For 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
Kirkus Reviews
Farmer (Runnery Granary, p. 300, etc.) plunges readers deep into South African social and spiritual worlds in this tale of a Shona girl fleeing an arranged marriage.

When the muvuki, the witchfinder, declares that Nhamo must marry an unsavory stranger to propitiate a murder victim's spirit, Nhamo gathers her few possessions and steals away in the village's only boat, intending to float up the Musengezi to Zimbabwe and find the father she's never known. It's a perilous journey that tests every ounce of her strength, will, and ingenuity: She has to find food in seasons fat and lean, cope with loneliness, face threats from everything from (elusive, perhaps metaphysical) leopards to land mines. Gathering discorporate (imaginary? not to her) companions as she goes, Nhamo lives in and off the wild for months, ending up at last, after finding her father's grave and enduring a cold reception from his family, with the congenial scientists at a tsetse fly research station. Although Farmer describes the history and culture of the Shona and other groups in an afterword, she hardly needs to; the cultural backdrop is so skillfully developed in her protagonist's experiences and responses that it will seem as understandable—or, in the case of European and Christian practices, as strange—and immediate to readers as it is to Nhamo. This wonderfully resourceful young woman is surrounded by an equally lively, colorful cast, and by removing many of the borders between human and animal, living and dead, Farmer creates a milieu as vivid and credible as readers' own. As rewarding, and as challenging, as The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm (1994).

Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 7.55(h) x 0.77(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Before becoming a writer, Nancy Farmer lived in Africa, and her work there included monitoring water weeds in Mozambique and helping to control tsetse flies in Zimbabwe. Since then, she has earned a host of prestigious awards for her writing, including three Newbery Honors for The Ear, The Eye, and The Arm; A Girl Named Disaster; and The House of the Scorpion. She lives in Menlo Park, California, with her husband. Visit her online at www.nancyfarmerwebsite.com.

Brief Biography

Menlo Park, California
Date of Birth:
July 9, 1941
Place of Birth:
Phoenix, Arizona
B.A., Reed College, 1963

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A Girl Named Disaster 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 71 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have just finished reading A Girl Named Disaster for a school book report and find the book fascinating. I appreciate how Mrs. Farmer includes so much detail and description in her writing. If you are interested about different culture, especially African, and enjoy lots of detail and description, A Girl Named Disaster is the book for you. I feel that A Girl Named Disaster is an extraordianryily rich novel filled with goodness. I am very much looking forward to reading all of Mrs. Farmers other books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great book for any age old enough to understand the story (10 or so). My husband and I enjoyed it as much as my daughter. Nhamo is a very smart, appealing character who endures and overcomes isolation, her own shortcomings and a whole range of problems and finally finds friends she can trust in a cruel and dangerous world.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed the book A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer. Nhamo, the main character, is a teenager living in a traditional Shona village. Her mother died and she is treated badly by everyone in her village except her grandma, Ambuya, and her cousin, Masvita. One day Ambuya tells Nhamo to sail to Zimbabwe, where her father lives. This is because her family is about to marry her off to a horrible diseases man with many wives. Nhamo starts on her journey with high hopes, but is discouraged when she becomes possessed by an evil witch and has many encounters with the kind but creepy water spirits, njuzu. She comes close to death many times. First, Nhamo almost starves multiple times and she is also almost killed by a wild baboon. She has to teach herself how to hunt, how to tell good food from bad, how to build a stable shelter, and etc. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes survival stories or has an interest in nature and animals. A Girl Named Disaster is directed towards children ten years old and up, and it is an exciting read. There are many times that one may think Nhamo would die, and that keeps you on the edge of your seat the throughout the whole story. If you liked this book or are interested in reading it, you may also like The Cay by Theodore Taylor.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am reading this book for my Honors Geography class. So far I am thoroughly enjoying it. It is about a young Rhona Girl named Nhamo. Nhamo feels invincible to harm, yet in the end she learns that life isn't perfect. She displays her emotions at the correct times in the book when you are supceptable to them. The adventure and drama in this story are absolutely captivating. It is definetly one of those books that draw you in and won't let you out until you're done reading it. I would recomend this book to everyone, especially teens age 10-18.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book for a report, i LOVED IT!!!!!!!!! i had a lot of questions about it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome book- ultimate page turner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book soooooooooo much !!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am in the part where Nhamo meets the muvuki. AWESOME BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! PS. I like the cover it is strange looking
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing adventorous and also alittle sad. It reminded me alot of da harry potter series and da percy jackson series(which u should also read). Its also sad cause its alot for an 11/12 year old to handel her aunt hates her, her mom was eaten ,she has to marry a ngozi and go on da river alone. I swear 2 u I tried 2 make my whole class read it because of me my whole classs almost read it. If u want a book that ur gonna finish in 2days cause ur not gonna be able 2put it down then this is da book for u. I made my mom read it! BOO YA READ THIS BOOK!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am an 11 yr old and i luved it!!!!! I couldnt put it down and read in class too! Nancy farmers book is amazingly great. Plz read ur going to luv it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book. It tells of a journey. Streangth and true love. Not just the boy girl kind but for family,enviorment and yourself. She traveled so far and never gave up. I loved this book and i know you will too
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im reading it for school right now and its ok if u lik cultural books if not this book defenitly isnt for you
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is really great!! It is one of my favorites!! And yes,this would be really be helpful (but not TOO helpful) in early teen years.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Me and my family loved all of the book
Sydney Perrigoue More than 1 year ago
This is a great book! It is exciting and interesting. I learned tons about the African culture in 1981 and about some interesting animals. I would personaly reccomend this book for early teen girls. A great book for school too. Read it.
Megan Burroughs More than 1 year ago
I read this book for A summer reading project and tried to find another one like it. Great book for young readers!
C-Guevara More than 1 year ago
Nancy Farmer has a way with story telling, and this is the prime example of that. This journey of a young girl named Nhamo traces her ascension into womanhood and the spiritual journey she goes through within. It is filled with lore, shenanigans, and it will make you feel plenty of emotions as you read! You feel as if you are there watching Nhamo, silently in the woods, you are part of the spirit world and this is just one of the many stories you will witness. Read The Ear, The Eye, and The Arm by Nancy Farmer...another great book!