Friday, August 20, 2021

Playing a Dangerous Game

Ochieng, Patrick. Playing a Dangerous Game
August 17th 2021 by Norton Young Readers
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Lumush (which is short for Lumumba) lives in Nairobi, Kenya in about 1975 with his sister Awino, brother Deno, mother, and father. His father has recently been promoted to manager, so while the family continues to rent a house in the Railway Estates, there is now enough money for him to go from St. Joseph's Primary and attend the much nicer Hill School. His mother gets him his uniform and supplies, and soon he is enjoying the nicer facilities but having to put up with the teachers and students who look down on him. He still hangs out with his neighborhood friends, Odush, Dado, and Mose. They frequently hang out in an old, abandoned car, and are enthralled by a local "ghost house" where a woman and her daughter were said to have died, and where the father is said to have killed himself. During one of their sorties into the house, Lumush breaks his arm and has to have it in a plaster cast, which does not make his mother happy! There are lots of interesting details about Lumush's life, like the appearance of a film corporation truck that shows outdoor movies in the housing estate, the monthly spraying of toxic chemicals to control mosquitoes, the fact that Idi Amin was removing the Indian immigrant population from nearby Uganda, and the circumcision of one of the friends. Also mentioned is the spike in coffee prices due to weather damaging much of the Brazilian crop. This becomes entwined with the boys' investigation of the ghost house, as they uncover a devious plot to smuggle coffee and have to deal with Tumbo, a local police chief. When a local boy is killed in an odd traffic accident, are Lumush and his friends in a dangerous situation?
Strengths: For me, books are the best way to travel the globe and learn the details about how people live, and I'm so glad that we're starting to see titles like Baitie's Crossing the Stream (June 8th 2021 by Norton Young Readers), especially since recently I've had a number of students who have lived in African countries before coming to my school, and they are so thrilled to see books that remind them of home. (One girl who was from Nigeria even introduced me to Nollywood films!) Not only that, but this was a fast-paced book about boys roaming around the neighborhood and getting into low levels of mischief, and that is always a popular sort of book. There's just enough history to encourage students to learn more about this time period. The cover is great, and the illustrations remind me of some of the reading textbooks I had in the 1970s-- those colors! 
Weaknesses: Other cultures have different norms when discussing or describing things. Many characters are described as "fat", or with words that US culture would deem judgmental. This is not a weakness, but a warning that there is some discussion of male circumcision, with female circumcision hinted at, as well as some depictions of drinking parlors, grave robbing, and violent deaths that might make this a difficult read for elementary school students. 
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, and I hope that Norton Young Readers continue to find titles written about a variety of different countries by people who have lived in them! I hope that Mr. Ochieng is planning on writing more as well. 

It's casual Friday. Fun fact: when it's hot, I pack all of my clothes in my back pack and wear sweats to and from school. This is another reason why buying things at the thrift store is good-- if it makes it to the thrift store AND home with me and doesn't need to be ironed, I'm good to go. 

Blouse from Kohl's with that seductive Kohl's cash, and a skirt that a fellow teacher gave me last year because she thought I could wear it on my bike. Both are super comfy poly knit fabrics that wash really well. 

And yes, there will be a necklace. Just forgot to put it in the picture. Costume jewelry is really for old people, isn't it?

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