for: Middle grades (one of my fourth graders lent this to me after loving it...)
Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2009
Lucy Hoffman is the thirteen-year-old daughter of the American Ambassador to Ethiopia. She leaves the safe confines of "the compound" every day to be driven to school, but other than that her life is pretty restricted. She yearns to get out and explore Addis Ababa and the surrounding game area. She has researched mammals of Africa extensevely and hopes to follow in the footsteps of Dian Fossey, Jane Goodall, and Birute Galdikas. She feels that her parents are being overly protective and much too strict, so she sneaks out a few times, always getting caught.
(Spoiler Alert:) One day, she and her friend Tana sneak out and Lucy is kidnapped. She is taken to a remote hut in the middle of she-knows-not-where, given very little food, unsafe water, and held for some sort of ransom. She figures out a way to escape and takes off, with the knowledge she has gleaned from many books about Africa, into the great unknown. Full of wildlife sightings, good thinking, and lots of pluck and luck, Lucy figures out how to save herself.
Kids will love the adventure and the wildlife in this book. The description of life and celebrations in a remote tribal village only add to the feeling of Africa. Yes, it really feels like you're in Ethiopia. Fascinating. Interesting. Based loosely on a story about a girl who made it through a similar escape. Well researched, and thoughtful. There aren't a lot of stories for American kids with a setting like this - keep 'em comin'!