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A Girl Named Disaster Paperback – January 1, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers 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 creation?while 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.-- is a stunning creation?while 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.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From School Library Journal

Grade 6-9?For 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
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks; Reprint edition (January 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0545356628
  • ISBN-13: 978-0545356626
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (126 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #233,066 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nancy Farmer has written three Newbery Honor Books: The Ear the Eye and the Arm; A Girl Named Disaster; and The House of the Scorpion, which, in 2002, also won the National Book Award. Other books include Do You Know Me, The Warm Place, the Trolls trilogy, three picture books for young children and an adult novel, A New Year's Tale. Nancy Farmer grew up on the Arizona-Mexico border and lives with her family in Arizona.

The Lord of Opium, sequel to The House of the Scorpion, will be published in Fall 2013.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By S. Silverman on March 27, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The middle of Farmer's three Newbery Honor books of the last decade, this is different, being historical fiction adventure to the other two's science fiction. Like The Ear, The Eye, and The Arm, this takes place in Africa, giving it an exotic touch. Nhamo (Disaster in her native Shona language) is an orphan of sorts, with a deceased mother and absent father, living traditionally in a tribal village in southern Africa. Through circumstances beyond her own making, she is put in a position of fleeing her home, a not uncommon Newbery theme (see Crispin The Cross of Lead) For this reader, she partakes in the adventure of a strong, bright, observant, resourceful girl/young woman reminding me of Miyax (Julie of the Wolves), Omakayas (The Birchbark House) and Karana (Island of the Blue Dolphins), high company, indeed. Nhamo leads a fascinating life, both in the village and after leaving it, including spending significant amounts of time fending for herself. This is thoroughly enjoyable on many counts, the intriguing cultures, countrysides, and relationships, some touches of spiritualism, the ideas of how to maintain oneself emotionally and physically when isolated, the ideas of perseverance in the face of what appear to be insurmountable obstacles, and flexibility and teaching oneself what's necessary when it's necessary. Well suited for secondary grades, a very strong reading fifth or sixth grader could enjoy it, too.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Billy on February 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
I read this book out of curiosity; having read the author's other outstanding books such as "House of the Scorpion" and "The Sea of Trolls". I must say that I'm truly enchanted and my perspective with other culture was enriched upon finishing the book. It is a commitment to read the said novel; one must be willing to explore Zimbabwe's and Mozambique's folklore and ethnography. But with the craftsmanship of Nancy Farmer's storytelling, reading the book will not be a chore. And it's not "cheap thrill" too. I'm glad, authors like Farmer really do the task of painstaking research. Now I know her style/poetics--(1) use of folklore like songs, epics, tales, superstitions, (2) re-creating a cosmology, (3) use of mythic/physical/metaphorical journey to highlight the hero's/ heroine's coming-of-age, (4) heroism of the character like exploring his or her talents and capabilities; the search for his/her roots; and the struggle for a better situation in a fictional/ metaphorical society; (5) use of short but vivid chapters to make the seemingly epic novel readable for young readers. Nancy Farmer respects the kids by not "writing down" to them. Also, with her splendid prose, she truly loved her craft and her audience. Bravo!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on March 1, 2006
Format: Paperback
A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer, Puffin Publishing co.

"The journey will be the hardest thing you'll ever do, but it will be worth it", her grandmother said. When a Shona girl named Nhamo is forced into an arranged marriage to save her village in Southern Africa, her grandmother thinks the opposite. Grandmother tells her to runaway from Mozambique to Zimbabwe, to find her father and be safe. After going countless days all alone on a lake she comes across an inhabited island with baboons. After resting , she finds Zimbabwe and a few other friends. A scary part in the book is when Nhamo gets possessed by a witch. That is part of the rising action and leads to the conclusion.

Nhamo and Ambuya (Nhamo's grandmother), Mastiva and Nhamo mother are the main characters in this book. To describe Nhamo, she was quiet and obedient. She got bossed around by her aunt and other women in the village. Most of the work around the village was done by Nhamo with rarely any help. She liked hiding away and not being found when her aunt sent her to get wood. As Nhamo goes on to Zimbabwe, she gains muscle and becomes brave. Ambuya is a strong, wise village elder. Nhamo is one of Ambuya's favorites. Ambuya enjoys telling folk tales and is good at giving advice. Mastiva is Nhamo's cousin and gets to sit all day and do nothing while Nhamo has to do all the work. The reason why Mastiva doesn't have to do work is because Mastiva's mother holds a grudge at Nhamo's Mother who is dead. Nhamo is important to this story because she's the strongest. She is the main character because she goes through the most and learns very quickly.

Yes, I would recommend this book to girls age 12-16, because I learned a lot from it. It made me think about what I would do in Nhamo' situation.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Mandy on December 10, 1999
Format: Paperback
The name of my favorite book is "A Girl Named Disaster." I thought that this book should receive a five star rating because it was so dramatic, dangerous, and also very sad. I thought this book is an all-around good book and I wish I had a copy of it. There were very few things I disliked about this book. However, it was very emotional, there were parts I didn't understand, but other than that it was a very good and detailed book. A young girl named Nhamo's, mother was killed when Nhamo was a baby by a leopard and her father had killed someone and left Nhamo with her aunts, Aunt Chipo and Aunt Shuvai. A disease starts to kill people in her village so they go to this man her cousin is supposed to gett married to and he told them that Nhamo was the cause and that she was a witch.When they got back to their village the wedding was a few days later and her Grandmother helped her escape in Crocidile Guts boat. Nhamo meets a lot of animals on her journey but the rest you have to read for yourself. I think people with an average reading level should read this because it is hard to understand and has hard words in it, but other than that I think anyone that likes dangerous, and action filled books should read this great book.
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