BookBrowse Reviews Twenty Chickens for a Saddle by Robyn Scott

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Twenty Chickens for a Saddle

The Story of an African Childhood

by Robyn Scott

Twenty Chickens for a Saddle by Robyn Scott
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2008, 464 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2009, 464 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Vy Armour

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


A magical childhood spent in the extraordinary, captivating country of Botswana

How refreshing to read a memoir of a magical childhood where parents are loved and respected. Robyn Scott proves you do not have to come from a dysfunctional family to tell a great story. And this book is all about stories. Twenty-eight chapters of stories of three generations and the lives they have chosen to live in one of Africa's most beautiful countries.

There is the story of Botswana with diamond mines, a new democracy and the devastation of AIDS.

There is Grandpa Ivor's story. An irascible yet charming World War II veteran of the South African Air Force who lives in a run-down home with the remains of a broken Cessna in the yard. He was the personal pilot of the first President of Botswana (Sir Seretse Khama) and, during Robyn's childhood, flies her father to remote bush clinics.

In the wealthier near-by community of Selebi-Phikwe, live Granny Joan and Grandpa Terry (maternal grandparents). They live a privileged life in the heart of the greenest and quietest suburb in a large house which "smelled of flowers and floor polish and there was not a trace of dirt anywhere" - a far cry from Robyn's new new home on Grandpa Ivor's land - a corrugated cow shed with a dirt floor covered with mounds of dry cow dung and "tiny-crocodile creatures" scurrying behind piles of wood stacked against the walls.

There is the father's story, Keith Scott, a dedicated physician who often sees as many as one-hundred patients a day with limited resources and deplorable conditions.

There is the mother's story, Linda Scott, a scientist who believes in holistic medicine and homeschooling (against her parents' wishes), and educates her children primarily through the simple medium of stories read aloud and observation of the natural world. "She read to us most days and occasionally all day - from breakfast to dinner, stopping only for cups of tea." Linda is the eternal optimist. Her comments on seeing the cowshed kitchen for the first time: "That will take a bit of work, but it's east-facing so it'll be lovely in the morning sun."

And of course, mainly, there is Robyn's story - seeing her family and their adventures in Africa through her eyes is indeed a reading pleasure. Describing her parents' return from a long day at the clinic, she writes:

"The doors swung open and clinic smell—disinfectant, latex-rubber glove powder, sweaty bodies in 104 degree heat—poured out into the night. I breathed deeply of the sweet-sharp mix, letting it wash over me as I kissed Mum and Dad. I loved that smell. The smell of relief at a safe return and anticipation of breath-taking stories Dad might have brought back with him this time."

Most of us read for many reasons. Escape, adventure, understanding of other cultures, but always for a good story. Twenty Chickens for a Saddle, the story of a remarkable family, will give you all of the above and then some. I highly recommend it.


About the Author: Born in 1981, Robyn Scott was homeschooled in her early years by a mother who believed "children often learn best in unstructured situations, when they don't know they're learning. Especially if they're having fun." The Oxford educated mother also thought a syllabus stifled creativity and that she was just as capable of getting her children to university as anyone else. Evidently her theory proved right as Robyn's formal education did not begin until age fourteen after which she went on to earn a Gates Scholarship to Cambridge University. She received a M.Phil. in bioscience enterprise, focusing on the pricing of medicines in developing countries. She lives in London but works and travels frequently in Africa.

When it was suggested that she write a book of her childhood in Africa, she asked herself the same question her grandfather asked after publication. "Why would anyone care what we all got up to in a little town in Botswana?"

Fearing that no one could possibly be interested in the magical events she recalled as a child, she discarded her original beginning (her earliest memory of Botswana-- two fruit moths sipping grape-juice from her grandfather's lips) and instead wrote of black mamba snakes, the breaking of a crocodile's jaw and other mortal danger episodes, but found that she soon ran out of exciting adventures. It was then that her agent suggested she return to the magic of the moths and so began the delightful process of discovering how the quieter character-rich moments hovered discreetly in the shadows of grander memories.

Robyn is currently working on a book about the Group of Hope, a group of inmates in the maximum security prison of Brandvlei in Botswana, who have 'adopted' HIV/AIDS orphans and people in need from the community, providing them with vegetables and clothes that they have made themselves in the workshop and toys that were received as donations.

Reviewed by Vy Armour

This review was originally published in April 2008, and has been updated for the March 2009 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: If We Were Villains
    If We Were Villains
    by M L. Rio
    22 out of 28 of our reviewers rated If We Were Villains four or five stars, giving it an overall ...
  • Book Jacket: The Islamic Enlightenment
    The Islamic Enlightenment
    by Christopher de Bellaigue
    In this comprehensive and well-researched history, de Bellaigue examines the evolution of Islamic ...
  • Book Jacket: The Leavers
    The Leavers
    by Lisa Ko
    The day before Deming Guo saw his mother for the last time, she surprised him at school. A navy blue...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

A richly layered novel of hearts broken seemingly beyond repair and then bound by a stunning act of human devotion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Scribe of Siena
    by Melodie Winawer

    Equal parts transporting love story, meticulously researched historical fiction, and compelling time-travel narrative.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Chalk Pit

The Chalk Pit:
A Ruth Galloway Mystery

A string of murders takes Ruth underground in the newest book in the series.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T W Don't M A R

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -