An African dance

25th September 1998 at 01:00
Do you know me (Orion Pounds 3.99) by Nancy Farmer will bring home to children, in a highly comic way, the wide social divisions that can exist in a developing country.

Tapiwa's father wears a suit and works in a Zimbabwe bank. His brother, Uncle Seka, a refugee from war-torn Mozambique, is used to hunting for his food. When he comes to stay in Tapiwa's house, a series of hilarious interludes follow. Tapiwa much prefers her uncle's eccentric company to that of her pompous, snobbish Aunt Rudo, wife of Zimbabwe's Progress Minister.

Ever since arriving in the city, Uncle Seka has been fascinated by cars. Near the end of the book he takes Tapiwa on a breathtakingly irresponsible adventure in a government Mercedes. Eight and nine-year-old readers will enjoy the humour in such escapades, while those aged 10 and 11 are more likely to register the novel's indictment of those Africans who contrive to cut themselves off from their past.

The title refers to the sense of isolation Tapiwa feels in her smart grey-uniform school.

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