Reviews for Girl Called Problem

Booklist Reviews 2013 May #2
"The ancestors don't like girls going to school." Is that why the crop is failing in 13-year-old Shida's rural village in Tanzania in the late 1960s? Shida is thrilled to learn to read in her rough one-room schoolhouse, and her dream is to train with the village nurse. She is encouraged by her wise grandfather, Babu, an ardent follower of the adored new president, Nyerere, who supports women's education and has freed the people from white colonialism. But many villagers, including Shida's widowed, depressed mother and the boys in the classroom, are hostile to girls being educated and leaving the traditional ways. Who released the precious village cattle? Is someone poisoning the collective crops? Quirk spent two years in Tanzania, and this original paperback includes a detailed Swahili glossary with notes and photos. The young girl's moving personal story brings close not only the intense battle over education and equality but also the basic struggle for the freedoms that come with running water, electricity, and medicine. Can Shida change her mother? Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2013 February #1
Thirteen-year-old healer Shida (Swahili for "problem") can't save 6-year-old Furaha ("happiness") from an untimely death in the Tanzanian village of Njia Panda that its inhabitants label cursed. Despite having penned this work of fiction as an outsider to the culture, Quirk's debut novel for children gives readers an intimate view of rural Tanzania in the early 1970s through details of daily life, folklore, family dynamics and spiritual beliefs. A budding healer, Shida is blamed for her father's death, which occurred at Shida's birth, and this weighs heavily on her. Since that time, her mother has wallowed in self-pity and refused to work. When President Nyerere asks Shida's village to become a model of ujamaa (familyhood) for the country by moving to Njia Panda and farming communally, Shida eagerly anticipates what she has never had: an education and a nursing mentor. After the move, however, the cotton crop mysteriously fails overnight, the villagers' prize possessions, their cattle, escape from their pens, and Furaha dies of fever. With the help of Shida and her cousin Grace, Babu, their grandfather and the village elder, unearths the truth. The novel offers a captivating introduction to Tanzanian life, culture and language (both Swahili and Sukuma), while the mystery of who has cast the "curse" keeps readers intrigued. A mesmerizing read that expands young readers' worldview even as the pages turn. (glossary, author's note) (Historical fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Reviews 2013 April

Gr 6-9--Thirteen-year-old Shida, whose name means "problem" in Swahili, has been told all her life by her widowed mother that their family is cursed. When the elders of her village inform the residents of Tanzanian President Nayere's 1967 decree that they should move and share resources with a nearby village, Shida is excited for the change, thinking that she will finally have the opportunity to go to school and study under the village's nurse. Soon after arriving at the new village, however, troubling things begin to happen, and Shida's mother's belief in a curse seems more and more real. When tragedy strikes the family, surprising secrets are revealed, and the people must decide whether to remain in the new village or return to their land. Although the story has a slow start, readers will soon be immersed in the culture of this Sukuma village and will urge Shida on as she works hard to help her difficult mother and as she seeks the education that she will need to become a healer. Quirk strikes a good balance between traditional Sukuma tribal beliefs and more modern ideas about medicine and education. A glossary and help readers better understand the culture and setting in which the story takes place.--Sarah Reid, Broome County Public Library, Binghamton, NY

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