Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm

The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm

Nancy Farmer
For ages 9 to 12
Scholastic , 2012   ISBN: 978-0545356619

Thirteen year old Tendai lives with his mother, his father, his young sister Rita, and his little brother Kuda. Tendai and his siblings have always had a very sheltered life. Fearing that his enemies might harm his children, General Matsika has never let them go outside on their own. They have never been to a school, walked around the city of Harare, or ridden on a bus. Instead, they have been tended to by robotic servants and the Mellower, a sycophantic man who praises General Matsika and his family on demand.

Tendai really wants to get his next scouting badge so that he can become an Eagle Scout. In order to earn this coveted prize he needs, at the very least, to walk across Harare, but he knows that his father will never allow it. What amazes the children is that the Mellower agrees to intervene on their behalf. While the general and his wife are stupefied by the Mellower's art of persuasion, the Mellower gets them to sign the permission form, to give the children some money, and to give them passes so that they can get out of the compound.

Unfortunately for everyone the Mellower's good intentions go very sour very fast. The children have not been out in the city for long before they are kidnapped and handed over to a ruthless and terrifying woman called the She Elephant. Before they can do anything to save themselves, the children are taken to Dead Man's Vlie, a place where unwanted people live, scavenging in the remains of hundreds of years of garbage. Though the She Elephant does not actually harm the children, she does keep them prisoner, and when Tendai hears that she plans to sell all three of them, he decides that they need to run away.

Meanwhile, Tendai's parents have decided to hire a detective agency to find their children. The three men who work in the agency are called Ear, Eye, and Arm and they all have extraordinary sensory powers. With the help of certain connections that they have, the trio is soon on the trail of the children, but somehow they always seem to be one step behind.

Set in Zimbabwe in 2194, this story will take young readers on an extraordinary bookish adventure. Tendai, Rita, and Kuda - and therefore the readers as well - will discover that many people in Zimbabwe live in poverty and misery. They will see how cruel and bigoted human beings can be. They will also learn that there are brave and kind people in the world who are willing to risk all, for the sake of others. This combination of the bitter and the sweet is powerful and very compelling.

Beautifully written and utterly authentic, this futuristic fantasy will delight readers who have read some of Farmer's other titles. The Ear, The Eye, and The Arm was a 1995 Newbery Honor title.