A Girl Named Disaster

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Overview

While fleeing from Mozambique to Zimbabwe to escape an unwanted marriage, Nhamo, an eleven-year-old Shona girl, struggles to escape drowning and starvation and in so doing comes close to the luminous world of the African spirits.

While fleeing from Mozambique to Zimbabwe to escape an unwanted marriage, Nhamo, an eleven-year-old Shona girl, struggles to escape drowning and starvation and in so doing comes close to the luminous world ...

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A Girl Named Disaster

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Overview

While fleeing from Mozambique to Zimbabwe to escape an unwanted marriage, Nhamo, an eleven-year-old Shona girl, struggles to escape drowning and starvation and in so doing comes close to the luminous world of the African spirits.

While fleeing from Mozambique to Zimbabwe to escape an unwanted marriage, Nhamo, an eleven-year-old Shona girl, struggles to escape drowning and starvation and in so doing comes close to the luminous world of the African spirits.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

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).

From the Publisher

* "An unforgettable work." --PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, starred review
* "Rewarding." --KIRKUS, starred review
* "This story is humorous and heart wrenching, complex and multilayered. . . . An engrossing and memorable saga." --SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, starred review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140386356
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/28/1998
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: 730L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.06 (w) x 7.76 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

Nancy Farmer

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.

Biography

Born in Phoenix, Arizona and raised in a quirky hotel on the outskirts of Mexico, Farmer's unconventional upbringing around such types as rodeo wranglers and circus travelers all but guaranteed the unique and colorful life that was to follow.

After receiving her B.A. degree from Oregon's Reed College 1963, Farmer enlisted in the Peace Corps in India where she served from 1963 to 1965. From 1969 to 1971, she found herself immersed in the study of chemistry at Merritt College in Oakland, California and later at the University of California at Berkeley from 1969 to 1971. However, her wanderlust eventually took her to Africa, where she labored as a lab technician in Zimbabwe from 1975 to 1978. There, she met Harold, her husband-to-be, who was an English teacher at the University; after a weeklong courtship, they were engaged. Happily married ever since, they have a son, Daniel.

On how she decided to become a writer, Farmer explained in an interview with the Educational Paperback Association, "When Daniel was four, while I was reading a novel, the feeling came over me that I could create the same kind of thing. I sat down almost in a trance and produced a short story. It wasn't good, but it was fun. I was forty years old." She continues, "Since that time I have been absolutely possessed with the desire to write. I can't explain it, only that everything up to then was a preparation for my real vocation."

Her first book, Do You Know Me?, an adventure for young people set in Zimbabwe, was soon to follow this epiphany. The book was well-received by kids and critics alike, and Publishers Weekly praised Farmer for providing "a most interesting window on a culture seldom seen in children's books."

Her follow-up, The Ear, the Eye and the Arm, was named an Newbery Award Honor Book in 1995, and also honored as a Notable Book and a Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association, and an Honor Book by the Golden Kite Awards, awarded by the Society of Children's Writers and Illustrators. Most recently, The House of the Scorpion won the 2002 National Book Award for Young People's Literature.

Good To Know

A former chemistry teacher, one of Farmer's first jobs was as an insect pathology technician. Said farmer in an interview with the Educational Paperback Association, "I had never taken entomology. All I knew was that bugs had more legs than cows, but my boss wanted someone who wouldn't talk back to him."

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

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 69 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(48)

4 Star

(13)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

(2)

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(4)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 69 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2007

    Thrilling Story

    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.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2007

    excellent adventure story of a courageous and resourceful girl

    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.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2007

    A Girl Named Disaster

    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.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2000

    Awesome Book!

    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.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2012

    Brooke

    I read this book for a report, i LOVED IT!!!!!!!!! i had a lot of questions about it

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2005

    well...

    I'm pretty sure this book is wonderful but I had a particularly hard time focusing and staying intrested in it. I had to put it down after 48 pages. Maybe it's just me.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2013

    A Girl Named Disaster

    I love Nancy Farmer and her books

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2013

    THERE SHOULD BE A SECOND BOOK TO THIS I SWEAR!!!!

    I love this book soooooooooo much !!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2000

    Very Good!

    A good, suspensful tale of survival. Also, a good glimpse into Shona Culture.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2013

    Loved it

    Awesome book- ultimate page turner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2013

    Creepy

    Eeek!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2012

    ILTB (i lovethis book)

    I am in the part where Nhamo meets the muvuki. AWESOME BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! PS. I like the cover it is strange looking

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2012

    Tap Here if u want 2 know ur destiny!

    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!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2012

    Yay!!

    This book is just amazing! READ IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!PIZZA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ....
















    Poopy

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2012

    Review by Aruba

    I luved this book!!!! Yay!!! Buy it. Lol merci u here? Well bye bye!
    -Aruba/Ruby/Rue

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2012

    Omgggggg it was

    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!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2012

    I loved it

    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

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2012

    Its ok

    Im reading it for school right now and its ok if u lik cultural books if not this book defenitly isnt for you

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2012

    READ ThIS

    First offff thx for lisenting

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2012

    LOVE IT!!!!

    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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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