If you haven't kept up with children's books over the last couple decades, you may have missed a terrific author. Nancy Farmer's books have covered topics such as cloning, long-term effects of pollutants, social progress and culture change. In The ear, the eye and the arm, she takes us to Zimbambwe in the year 2194, when General Matsika, chief of security, suddenly finds that his three children went on an Explorer Scout adventure alone into the city center and were kidnapped. The kidnappers distracted them with an illegal blue mutant monkey--then chloroformed them.
The three detectives hired to find the children are called Ear, Arm and Eye, because of their unique skills. Arm has extremely long arms and legs and he can sense emotions as well as having premonitions; Ear has extremely sensitive hearing; and Eye, of course, can see the fleas on an eagle. Their mothers lived in a village near a nuclear reactor which leaked plutonium into their water.
The story gives us a tour of the huge city of Harare, from the busy market to the toxic waste dump where the poorest, slaves, mine for plastic and then on to a small traditionally African country contained within Harare, completely cut off from technology, medicine and the laws. The children are nearly rescued by the detectives time and time again, but there is a conspiracy, some African black magic, and a fine dinner at the top of the highest building in Harare before the great ruckus brings it all to a satisfying end.
Be sure to take special note of the excellent Shona word shooper. We don't have an English equivalent: it means to say the one thing calculated to keep an argument going (or get it started). Some of you, I'm sure, know someone who is an inveterate shooperer, like Tendai's sister Rita, or you immediately think of that blatant shooperism, such as "Just what do you mean by that?"