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Child of Dandelions Hardcover – March 1, 2008

6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 6–9—Fifteen-year-old Sabine lives a life of luxury with her wealthy Indian family in Kampala, Uganda. Then Idi Amin comes to power and things change quickly. All British Indians are expelled from the country. Sabine's father thinks they will be safe because they are Ugandan citizens, but they soon discover that they are in serious danger. Sabine's beloved uncle disappears, and her friend Zena, who is African, turns against her because Zena's military uncle has convinced her that the Ugandan Indians have exploited the African populace. The book effectively portrays the rising terror and violence in 1972 as Sabine struggles to deal with a world falling apart. Prejudices are clearly delineated, and the thin veneer of civilization crumbles as the chilling background beat of the radio relentlessly counts down the days left before all British Indians must leave the country. Sabine is a mature, intelligent character amid the chaos, and the political situation is well realized through her eyes. Secondary characters add depth to the story, and Sabine's star-crossed crush on Zena's older brother makes her a realistic adolescent. Nail-biting suspense is maintained to the end as Sabine must make the agonizing decision to leave her grandfather behind to save the rest of the family. Excellent historical fiction about a timely yet sadly universal subject.—Quinby Frank, Green Acres School, Rockville, MD
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From Booklist

Sabine is 15 years old in the summer of 1972, when Ugandan president Idi Amin issues his proclamation that all “foreign Indians” must leave the country within 90 days. Unlike many of the Indians in their Kampala community, Sabine was born in Uganda, and although she is of Indian ancestry, she feels as much a Ugandan as her best friend, Zena, an “ethnic African.” As the countdown continues, though, the terrifying street violence reaches into Sabine’s home, and she realizes that despite her family’s Ugandan citizenship, they aren’t immune from the president’s decree. Nanji, who grew up in East Africa, exposes a period of shocking, rarely viewed political history in this vivid story that makes the horrors feel both personal and universal. Sabine’s close, realistic friendship with Zena, who admires “Dada Amin,” mirrors societal warfare over issues of class, race, and nationhood. The story’s authentic emotions and relationships balance the detailed cultural and historical explanations and combine in a gripping story of a remarkable teen who helps her family face impossible loss. Grades 7-12. --Gillian Engberg

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 11 - 14 years
  • Grade Level: 6 - 9
  • Lexile Measure: 720L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Boyds Mills Press (March 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932425934
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932425932
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,151,226 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Shenaaz Nanji was born on the ancient island of Mombasa, one of the oldest settlements on the East African coast, and grew up amid a fusion of cultures: Bantu-Swahili, colonial British, and East Indian.

She holds an MFA in Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College. She has written seven books for children. Her novel, Child of Dandelions, was nominated for the Governor General's Award for Children's Literature in 2008.

A strong advocate of literacy, Shenaaz likes to inspire and motivate children to read and believes that words have power to change lives, especially for young people.

Shenaaz is a lover of Baobab seeds, laughter, dancing alone, and singing in the shower.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. Heiss on January 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Idi Amin's reign of terror in Uganda included the ethnic cleansing of Uganda's Indian minorities. This book, from the perspective of a young girl, a Ugandan citizen but born to a family of successful Muslim Indian businesspeople, showcases the first tendency of socialists: DIVIDE AND ATTACK. Idi Amin singled out the talented and successful people in Uganda for elimination, gave them fair warning: 90 days until the exterminations begin, but then jumped the gun and started the political killings early.

Sabine, the hero of this story, watches as her culture, friendships, and family are swept away by the evil of socialism. Watches as her girlhood friend is turned into a child prostitute for the President. Watches as her family is blamed for their successes and resilience by scummy soldiers motivated by greed.

Sabine develops a "blame the victim" mindset: "Aunty, it is our fault. We took advantage of them..." p. 180. Understandable in the character, but false.

Parents should be aware that Sabine travels to a cold-storage warehouse where the mutilated bodies of tortured political prisoners wait to be identified and dumped into the crcodile-infested lake for disposal. She sees the maimed corpses, and so does the reader. Various types of torture-killings are described with friendly names: "helicopter treatment," "hammer treatment," etc. Also, Sabine barely escapes being raped by a soldier as she tries to get her paperwork to flee the regime. Lower age limit of 14, is my recommendation.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A. Simpson on September 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Child of Dandelions is a heart-rending story of Sabine - a teenager living in Uganda. Nanji's storytelling is pure and Sabine's (mis)adventure is full of the sights and sounds of Uganda in the 1970s when Idi Amin ordered the expulsion of some 80,000 Indians.
Nanji - a children's book author has made an impressive debut into the Young Adult genre with her new book!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Meaghan on August 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I think I had heard somewhere before about the expulsion of Indians from Uganda, but beyond a vague recollection I knew nothing about it. Nanji has done teenagers a service with this novel, which tells the story of an episode in recent African history that's been all but forgotten in the West. Idi Amin came out against the wealthy Indian minority in Uganda and gave the entire population ninety days to get out of the country or die. Sabine's family believes the order doesn't apply to them because they are Ugandan citizens who have been living in Africa for generations, but they quickly learn that such niceties mean little to the dictator and his henchmen.

Nanji resists the temptation to turn the characters into stereotypes; there are no all evil or all good people in this novel, but you see shades of gray in each one: Sabine's racist but kind family friend. Sabine's family's loyal African servant, who thinks of her family as his own. Sabine's African best friend who worships Idi Amin and agrees that, for the good of Uganda, the Indians must go. Her friend's uncle who is one of those abusing the Indians but protects Sabine's family at risk to himself. Sabine's grandfather, who's carrying a secret. Occasional phrases in African and Indian languages are sprinkled throughout and add authenticity without being distracting.

This story is taut and suspenseful. As the countdown continues and the tensions escalate, readers will keenly feel Sabine's fear and uncertainty. A fine work; I would recommend it, and read this author again.
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