Dakar is scared. When her family left East Africa to spend a year or two in Cottonwood, North Dakota, Dakar's older sister, Jakarta, was adamant about staying behind. Now Jakarta is all by herself in Kenya...and she's missing.
It's terrible to go through life cringing, sure that at any minute a blow is going to come from somewhere. Dakar doesn't want to worry, but she can't help it. What if Jakarta was in the middle of a Nairobi bombing? What if Mom gets caught by hoodies and forced back into that place when Jakarta isn't even there to help? What if Dad decides to go off to save lives and is seized by some mysterious disease? If Dakar were able to do three really brave things, would that be enough to keep her family together?
Almost everything in Cottonwood, North Dakota, requires bravery from a girl who has grown up in Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt, and Senegal. The possibility of a new friend, navigating a new school, and preparing for snow -- the first Dakar will ever see -- is the least of it. Jakarta is missing...when she's home and when she's not. And for Jakarta, Dakar will battle the universe.
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"It is a poor life in which there is no fear," Dakar's father likes to remind his two daughters. Before 12-year-old Dakar and her family moved to North Dakota from Kenya, her fears took the shape of charging elephants, muggings, blind beggars, bombings, and deadly cholera. In the American Midwest, she is leery of telephones, the banister in her unfamiliar two-story house, and most of all, that her older sister, Jakarta, who decided to stay back in Kenya may not be safe.
Jane Kurtz's delightful, original novel stars worrywart Dakar, a very human, very well-read, very bright girl with a richly textured imagination and fascinating fresh perspectives on Midwestern life. Dakar has reason to be a worrywart. Her mother slips into occasional periods of depression (the "hoodies" get her), and her father is perpetually preoccupied with global disease control, a job that keeps his mind far from the family, and the family on the run.
Dakar is a natural storyteller, and her new sixth-grade schoolmate Melanie's eyes grow wide with her tales of Africa. Readers, too, will revel in her imaginative landscape, rich with historical and biblical allusions she memorized in an Ethiopian boarding school, and "mysterious and unexplained things" like the Ark of the Covenant, the pyramids, and that her mom heard her grandmother's voice after she had passed away. Dakar's growing friendship with Melanie is a pleasure to behold--Melanie teaches her how to say "Help me. I'm a buttery potato on fire" in sign language, and Dakar spins tales of a continent far away. They are a fine pair, sharing secrets and dreams, even though the most exotic thing Melanie owns is a bracelet from the Wisconsin Dells, and, as she says, "The most exciting thing I've done until now was wearing socks that don't match."
Underlying all her new-kid-on-the-continent experiences is Dakar's fierce missing of Jakarta, her beautiful, smart, athletic sister. But when Jakarta is forced to return home from Africa for her own safety, the reunion is not the joyful one Dakar had anticipated. Jakarta and her father go head to head, and their mother leaves the family to help her mother's sister when she breaks her leg. When a terrible earthquake in Guatemala causes their father to leave, too, the girls are abandoned with only a credit card and the directive to be resourceful. In this fine novel, Dakar comes into her own. She learns, along with readers, that you shouldn't "get so caught up in safe that you forget to be fully alive" and that "courage and kindness and friendship and truth sent magic splinters into the universe." Heartily recommended. (Ages 10 and older) --Karin SnelsonAbout the Author:
Jane Kurtz was born in Portland, Oregon, but moved to Ethiopia when she was two years old and lived there for most of her childhood. She visited Boise, Idaho, for one year when she was seven, and she spent one year in Pasadena, California, when she was thirteen.
As an adult, she has spent time in several African countries but lives in Grand Forks, North Dakota, where she teaches part time in the English department at the University of North Dakota. She says, "My whole life has been shaped by that feeling of never being able to go home again. Luckily for me, my writing can transport me anyplace in the world."
Jane Kurtz is the author of both picture books and novels, and her titles include The Storyteller's Beads and Faraway Home.
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Book Description Greenwillow Books, 2001. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110060294019
Book Description Greenwillow Books, 2001. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 1st. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0060294019
Book Description Greenwillow Books, 2001. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. New item. Bookseller Inventory # QX-132-91-8130008
Book Description Book Condition: Brand New. Book Condition: Brand New. Bookseller Inventory # 97800602940141.0