Tag Archives: Africa

Gorilla Dawn by Gill Lewis

Gorilla Dawn by Gill Lewis. January 31, 2017. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 432 p. ISBN: 9781481486576.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.8.

Two children captured by a band of rebel soldiers in the Congo vow to protect an orphaned gorilla baby in this powerful, thought-provoking, and vividly compelling novel from award-winning storyteller Gill Lewis.

Deep in the heart of the Congo, a baby gorilla is captured by a group of rebel soldiers. Imara and Bobo are also prisoners in the rebels’ camp. When they learn that the gorilla will be sold into captivity, they swear to return it to the wild before it’s too late. But the consequences of getting caught are too terrible to think about. Will the bond between the gorilla and the children give them the courage they need to escape?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns; War; Violence; Genocide; Child soldiers; Xenophobic epithets

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 12))
Grades 5-8. As she did in Moon Bear (2015), Lewis shines a light on an industry still relatively unknown among western readers. Here it’s the mining of coltan, a mineral key to the production of cell phones, which is often excavated in places gorillas call home. Imara, kidnapped by rebels years ago, is now a child soldier with a group starting an illegal coltan mine in the Congo. Bobo’s pursuing the rebels in hopes of clearing the name of his father, a ranger accused of leading the rebels to a band of gorillas, the youngest of which they’ve captured and intend to sell to the corrupt white business woman who’s buying the “conflict-free” coltan. Imara, meanwhile, forms a powerful bond with the 18-month-old gorilla, which she names Kitwana, reawakening her long-forgotten compassion and weakening the tough exterior that had been so essential to her survival. Alternating among Imara, Bobo, and Kitwana’s perspectives, Lewis lays out the complicated relationship between widespread poverty, opportunistic groups (including white business owners and corrupt government officials), and environmental threats. The heart of the story lies firmly among the children and their struggle both to survive and not fall for the comfort promised by corrupt adults. Suspenseful pacing keeps the pages turning, and the provocative questions raised about conservation, consumerism, and the global effects of widespread poverty will keep readers thinking long after the last page.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 1, 2016)
A child soldier and a park ranger’s son rescue an infant gorilla. Binding together the world’s need for columbite-tantalite for its electronic devices, the fate of lowland gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s forests, the importance of park rangers, and the life of a young female kadogo, or child soldier, Lewis reminds her readers how strongly connected humans are to the natural world. “If we lose our love of it, then we lose everything.” Imara, the “spirit child” of the Black Mamba’s guerilla group, is already lost. Severely scarred on her face by her captor, she believes she harbors a demon. The rebels believe she has supernatural powers and can protect them. But given the care of the baby gorilla captured for the White Lioness—the foreigner who will also buy the coltan they are mining and the book’s only significant white character—she begins a recovery process. It culminates with her helping two other captives, a dead park ranger’s son, Bobo, and a Batwa boy, Saka, save the gorilla baby and being saved herself. Typography distinguishes human voices from imagined gorilla thoughts; chapter headings show changing points of view between Imara and Bobo; and the author emphasizes Imara’s recovery by giving her a first-person narrative at the end. Suspenseful and emotionally intense, this is eco-fiction at its most appealing. A riveting survival adventure with an important message. (Fiction. 9-14)

About the Author

Gill Lewis is the author of the critically acclaimed Wild Wings and One White Dolphin, both winners of the Green Earth Book Award, as well as Moon Bear and Gorilla Dawn. A veterinarian, her love of animals and the natural world plays a big part in her writing. She lives in the UK.

Her website is www.gilllewis.com.

Teacher Resources

Gorilla Dawn Teaching Guide & Lesson Plans

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Gorilla Dawn on Amazon

Gorilla Dawn on Goodreads

Gorilla Dawn on JLG

Gorilla Dawn Publisher Page

The Ebola Epidemic by Connie Goldsmith

The Ebola Epidemic by Connie Goldsmith. February 1, 2016. Twenty-First Century Books, 112 p. ISBN: 9781467792448.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1160.

An ordinary blue thermos holding blood samples from a sick nun in Zaire reached Belgium’s Institute of Tropical Medicine in September 1976. From the samples, researchers discovered a new virus, which they named the Ebola virus after a river in Central Africa. The virus killed two hundred eighty people before it seemingly disappeared into the jungle. No one suspected the virus would erupt in West Africa nearly four decades later to cause an unprecedented epidemic.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Clinical discussion of death and dying

 

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2015 (Vol. 112, No. 7))
Grades 7-10. The 2014 outbreak of Ebola in West Africa may have caused widespread—and, in some areas, overblown—panic about the disease, but in many ways, medical response to the epidemic was underwhelming. This comprehensive guide begins with the story of the initial discovery of the virus, in 1974, and elaborates on the nature and dangers of the disease before going into the most recent occurrences and their aftermaths. Though it doesn’t make light of the very real and devastating effects Ebola can have on families and entire communities, this is also careful not to contribute to sensationalism: Ebola is a dangerous virus, yes, but not a particularly efficient one, with diseases like the flu killing many more people each year. Goldsmith cites an editorial that compared the Ebola paranoia in the U.S. to that of fearful attitudes during the AIDS crisis before discussing the initial, inefficient international response to the incident and the ongoing search for a cure. A solid, valuable look at a still-mysterious illness and a tumultuous time in recent history.

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 1, 2015)
Welcome to the you-better-be-Brave New World of emergent viruses. Much of this crisp and informative book chronicles the Ebola outbreak that savaged Liberia and parts of neighboring countries in September 2014. Goldsmith, a veteran health/science writer, knows how to invest readers in her story. Here, with the help of a swarm of photographs and maps, she explains how the virus found its way to Liberia–an engrossing story in itself–which necessitates a little background information. Goldsmith delivers science in a serious yet welcoming tone (no one gets talked down to); pathology can be fascinating in its own right, but Goldsmith makes the development of vaccines and rapid-result Ebola tests just as absorbing. There is good material on Doctors without Borders as well as on the locals who took part in the effort to educate people about the nature and transmission of the virus. There is also a pithy explanation of viruses–“Not really alive, yet not quite dead, viruses are the zombies of the microscopic world”–including their ability to shift shape, which makes designing a vaccine so difficult. Meanwhile, a creepy image of the virus snakes across the pages, innocent-looking as spaghetti or yarn, deadly as a blue-ringed octopus. An arresting, illuminating, and unlikely-to-be-forgotten story. (Nonfiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Connie Goldsmith writes books about history, health, and science for older children. An RN with a master’s degree in health, Ms. Goldsmith lives near Sacramento, California.

Her website is www.conniegoldsmith.com.

Teacher Resources

Ebola Outbreak Lesson Plans

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The Ebola Epidemic on Amazon

The Ebola Epidemic on Goodreads

The Ebola Epidemic on JLG

The Ebola Epidemic Publisher Page

City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson

City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson. January 24, 2017. G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 432 p. ISBN: 9780399547584.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets Gone Girl in this enthralling murder mystery set in Kenya.

In the shadows of Sangui City, there lives a girl who doesn’t exist. After fleeing the Congo as refugees, Tina and her mother arrived in Kenya looking for the chance to build a new life and home. Her mother quickly found work as a maid for a prominent family, headed by Roland Greyhill, one of the city’s most respected business leaders. But Tina soon learns that the Greyhill fortune was made from a life of corruption and crime. So when her mother is found shot to death in Mr. Greyhill’s personal study, she knows exactly who’s behind it.

With revenge always on her mind, Tina spends the next four years surviving on the streets alone, working as a master thief for the Goondas, Sangui City’s local gang. It’s a job for the Goondas that finally brings Tina back to the Greyhill estate, giving her the chance for vengeance she’s been waiting for. But as soon as she steps inside the lavish home, she’s overtaken by the pain of old wounds and the pull of past friendships, setting into motion a dangerous cascade of events that could, at any moment, cost Tina her life. But finally uncovering the incredible truth about who killed her mother—and why—keeps her holding on in this fast-paced nail-biting thriller.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Violence; Strong sexual themes; Gangs

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 8-11. “If you’re going to be a thief, the first thing you need to know is that you don’t exist.” So begins Congo refugee and Kenyan street gang member Tina’s gripping narrative, a wonderfully twisted puzzle of a murder mystery. Six years ago, Tina’s mother, maid to wealthy Mr. Greyhill, was murdered in his study. Eleven-year-old Tina got her half sister Kiki (Mr. Greyhill’s daughter) a scholarship at a convent school and then disappeared into the streets of Sangui City, where she joined the Goonda gang. Here Tina refined her skills as a thief while carefully plotting revenge on Greyhill, whom she has good reason to believe murdered her mother. Now 17, Tina is ready to put the plan into action by blackmailing and then killing her mother’s assassin. Anderson, who has worked with refugee relief and development in Africa, addresses issues of race, class, and gender as intrinsic plot elements. Tina’s gay friend BoyBoy is an especially sympathetic and compelling character who refuses to join the Goondas, yet lends his computer skills to their many heists. Greyhill’s son Michael, Tina’s childhood playmate, is now both her captor and maybe her love interest, highlighting the tremendous gap between wealth and poverty and the resulting power dynamics. The nicely twisted climax is wholly believable, and readers will be sorry to leave Tina, whose fierce loyalty to family drives her courageous actions.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2016)
Anderson’s debut mystery novel features a Congolese teenager bent on revenge.In fictional Sangui City, Kenya, lives 16-year-old Tina, a black Congolese refugee. Tina has two purposes in life: take care of her mixed-race half sister, Kiki, and avenge their mother’s death. Five years ago, Mama was murdered, and Tina believes the culprit can only be the rich and corrupt Mr. Greyhill, her mother’s white former employer and lover. To survive, Tina has embedded herself as the wiliest of thieves within the ranks of the Goondas, a powerful gang in the city. After a Goonda heist on Mr. Greyhill goes wrong, Tina finds herself in cahoots with his mixed-race son, Michael, to find the true murderer. Michael wants to prove it wasn’t his father, and Tina goes along with it so that she can resume her plan for vengeance. Along with her black tech genius partner in crime, Boyboy, they find themselves in the depths of Congo, looking for answers that could cost them their lives. The narrative is guided by Tina’s rules for survival, which reveal a strong yet vulnerable character. While much of the novel is fictionalized, it exposes both the very real corruption and greed of the mining industry in Congo and the women who pay the price. The novel is peppered with Swahili words and phrases, and Anderson makes an effort to paint a picture of the country. A story full of twists and turns, proving nothing is ever as black and white as it may seem. (glossary) (Thriller. 12-16)

About the Author

Natalie C. Anderson is a writer and international development professional living in Boston, Massachusetts. She has spent the last decade working with NGOs and the UN on refugee relief and development, mainly in Africa. She was selected as the 2014-2015 Associates of the Boston Public Library Children’s Writer in Residence, where she wrote her debut novel, City of Saints and Thieves.

Her website is www.nataliecanderson.com.

Around the Web

City of Saints and Thieves on Amazon

City of Saints and Thieves on Goodreads

City of Saints and Thieves on JLG

City of Saints and Thieves Publisher Page