Zimbabwe in 2194. It’s an odd mix of science fiction, adventure, history, social commentary and comedy.
Tendai is the oldest of three sheltered children in the home of a wealthy general.
They have robot Dobermans patrolling the walled gardens, microchip birds to sing, tutors, and even a man called the Mellower whose sole purpose is to sing the praises of family members and make each feel good about himself.
They have everything a kid could need or want, except adventure. So they ask the Mellower to convince Father to grant approval for them to go on a trip to the city. Praise singing is much like hypnotism, you see, and the Mellower has more power than intelligence when he’s working his magic.
So they’re off. Three children who have never even been to the market hop a public bus to Mbare Musika, the colorful bazaar where anything can and does happen.
Strange men kidnap the children and take them to a toxic waste dump where they are forced to mine plastic for the She Elephant – a very large woman. But they are given plenty of good food.
Later they escape to Resthaven, where people live as their Zimbabwean ancestors did. At first it all seems idyllic even though food is pretty scarce. Then sexism drives Tandai’s sister into the ground, and a witch hunt begins at the birth of a pair of unlucky twins. Resthaven isn’t quite the haven they had hoped for.
After escaping, they catch chicken pox and are put into quarantine. They are sold to a violent gang of criminals called the Masks. They have adventures underground and in a mile-high tower of technological wonders. All the while three strange and supernatural detectives from the Ear, the Eye and the Arm detective agency are a step behind the siblings, trying to rescue them.
The Ear, the Eye and the Arm is a wonderful contrast between the futuristic and the ancestral, between the rich and the poor, between realism and spiritualism, and it seems to say there is good and bad to everything.
This Newbery Honor winner is recommended for grades 7 and up.