cover image Do You Know Me

Do You Know Me

Nancy Farmer. Scholastic, $15.95 (112pp) ISBN 978-0-531-05474-1

First-time novelist Farmer serves up a genial family tale with an out-of-the-ordinary setting: Zimbabwe. Fleeing bandits in his Mozambique village, Tapiwa's Uncle Zeka has come to stay. Bush-savvy but unversed in city ways, this unusual gentleman proves just the breath of fresh air the nine-year-old needs to spice up her lonely routine--middle-class Tapiwa attends an elite girls' school and is roundly ignored by her snooty classmates. Uncle Zeka is gleefully unpredictable, naive to the point of being marginally dangerous and brimming with wild schemes. He's also thoroughly devoted to Tapiwa, and she to him. With his niece in tow, Uncle Zeka commits a string of social faux pas and gets into one scrape after another, from termite-hunting and impersonating beggars to a (literally) smashing finale in which Zeka outsmarts Tapiwa's insufferable Aunt Rudo and ends up driving her Mercedes into a mine shaft (he emerges intact and triumphant). Jackson's spirited black-and-white illustrations exhibit a distinctive personality of their own while adding zest to this pair's adventures. Farmer, who spent 17 years in Mozambique and Zimbabwe, is clearly a born storyteller--in this impressive first book she displays an astute ear for dialogue, a deft hand with plot twists and a keen, dry wit. Tapiwa could be the girl next door; she is also a most interesting window on a culture seldom seen in children's books. Ages 8-10. (Apr.)