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Child of Dandelions by Shenaaz Nanji

Child of Dandelions
y Shenaaz Nanji

Publishing Information: Boyd Mills Press: Asheville, N.C., 2008
ISBN: 9781932425932 / 9781423370581 (Audio)
: 214 p.
Ages: 12 & Up

Child of Dandelions follows part of the life of Sabine, a fifteen year old Indian girl living in Uganda in 1972. The book begins on the day that President Idi Amin declares that all foreign born Indians have 90 days to leave the country. Sabine is not worried though; while her family is Indian, they were all born in Uganda, making them citizens of the country. However, as racial tensions rise in the country, Sabine’s world slowly begins to unravel.

First, she loses her best friend Zena, an African girl who feels the injustice exerted by the Indians. Zena is a proud supporter of Amin, and this causes a rift between the girls, neither one being able to understand where the other is coming from. The final straw comes when Zena accuses Sabine’s father of being a loan shark, forcing his African workers into allegiance by loaning money that he knows they cannot pay back.

Then Sabine’s family begins to fall apart, some disappearing, while others are forced to hide. Slowly, Sabine gains a better since of awareness about the world around her, realizing that things in Uganda are not the same for everyone. She sees that the prejudices that she had thought only other Indians had also existed within her own life. As Amin’s countdown continues, Sabine realizes that it does not matter that she is Ugandan; all that matters currently is that she is Indian.

Book Talk:
In 1972 Sabine is living a life of privilege and comfort in a wealthy Indian family in Uganda when the military ruler General Idi Amin declares foreign Indians (known as brown Jews) must be ‘weeded’ out of Uganda in ninety days. The expulsion does not apply to Sabine’s family as they are Ugandan citizens. However her world is shattered when her beloved uncle disappears. Sabine lives through days of growing fear and uncertainty as her best friend abandons her and soldiers raid their home forcing her father and then her mother to flee. More terrorizing events force her to leave home and go into hiding. As the ninety-day deadline approaches, a new law declares all Indians are to be expelled or sent to concentration style camps. Now she is desperate to leave but can she? Where will she go and how will she unite with her family? Where will she go to begin a new life? (from the author’s website)

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

Amin, Idi, 1925-2003
East Indians
Ethnic Relations
Family Life
Forced Migration

Awards & Reviews:
Short List for the Governor General's Literary Awards, 2008

Booklist, June 1, 2008, p. 49
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, April 1, 2008
Horn Book Magazine, July 1, 2008
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2008
School Library Journal, May 1, 2008, p. 134
VOYA: Voice of Youth Advocates, June 1, 2008  

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. The forced immigration that Sabine and her family must face is a result of cultural persecution. Where have other similar events taken place (both in the past and present times)? Why do you think events like these continue to occur?
  2. Why does Zena start spending less time with Sabine? What do they argue over? How do their views of the situation in Uganda differ?
  3. What makes up someone’s identity? Is it where they live? Where they are from? Or something else entirely (such as what they like to do)?
  4. How much did you know about this event before reading this book? Does reading fiction based on real events make you want to learn more about what really happened?
  5. In the beginning of the book, Sabine is a bit naïve about what life is like for other Ugandans. How does Sabine change throughout the book as events around her unfold?
  6. What does the title Child of Dandelions mean?
  7. Is Sabine’s father really a good man, or is exploiting people around him?

Related Websites:
Author’s Website:
Author Interview with School Library Journal, April 2008:
Idi Amin Information and Obituary, The Guardian, United Kingdom Newspaper:

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Other Books by the Authors:
The Old Fisherman of Lamu with Shahd Shaker, 1996
Treasure for Lunch
with Yvonne Cathcart, 2000
An Alien in My House with Chum McLeod, 2004
Indian Tales: A Barefoot Collection
with Christopher Corr, 2007

About the Author:
Shenaaz Nanji was born on the ancient island of Mombasa, one of the oldest settlements on the East African coast, and grew up amid a fusion of cultures: Bantu-Swahili, Arabic, colonial British, and East Indian. Every year she visited her grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins in Uganda until Idi Amin turned them into refugees. She moved to the United States and lived in upstate New York before moving to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where she now lives with her husband and children. She holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College and has written several books for children. (from Boyd’s Mill Press website

| ©2004 - Rhode Island Teen Book Award Committee | Aaron Coutu, Chair