An exquisitely rendered portrait of an African childhood from an astonishing new talent
When Robyn Scott ’s parents decide to uproot their young family from New Zealand and move to a converted cowshed in rural Botswana, life for six-year-old Robyn changed forever. In this wild and new landscape excitement can be found around every corner, and with each misadventure she and her family learn more about the quirks, charms, and challenges of living in one of Africa’s most remarkable and beautiful countries as it stands on the brink of an epidemic. When AIDS rears its head, the Scotts witness the early appearances of a disease that will devastate this peaceful and prosperous country. Told with clear-eyed unsentimental affection, Twenty Chickens for a Saddle is about a family’s enthusiasm for each other and the world around them, with the essence of Africa infusing every page.
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Robyn Scott was born in 1981. She attended both the University of Auckland and Cambridge University.From Publishers Weekly:
In 1987, Scott's parents ended a peripatetic decade through South Africa, England, and New Zealand, and returned to Botswana with seven-year-old Robyn and her younger siblings. Her mother is a dedicated homeschooler (Children learn best in unstructured situations, when they don't know they're learning); her father is a doctor, who often serves more than one hundred patients a day. Grandpa Ivor, a former ace bush pilot, whose later ventures include coffin making, and Grandpa Terry, the personnel manager of a mine, are both great storytellers. Taut and coherent vignettes breathe life into the characters, and Scott's own storytelling skill renders childhood ventures (breaking a horse, falling into a thornbush, distributing Christmas bags) with remarkable immediacy and liveliness. There are snakes, metaphorical and real, though the former rarely intrude upon the child's idyllic world. The real snakes provide moments where we never knew what we'd learn, only that it would be interesting. A venomous puff adder serves as anatomy lesson, and her mother turns the death of a juvenile brown house snake into an exhilarating philosophical lecture. Happy stories are hard to tell, but Scott succeeds in this engaging recreation of a child's Botswana, apolitical and Eden-like. She has no sordid revelations, no shocking surprises—just a raconteur's talent for making any story she tells interesting. (Apr.)
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