Cover image for Saba : under the hyena's foot
Saba : under the hyena's foot
Kurtz, Jane.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Middleton, Wis. : Pleasant Co., [2003]

Physical Description:
207 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 20 cm.
After being kidnapped and brought to the emperor's palace in Gondar, Ethiopia, twelve-year-old Saba discovers that she and her brother are part of the emperor's desperate attempt to consolidate political power in 1846.
General Note:
"American Girl."
Reading Level:
800 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 5.4 5.0 72267.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 5.3 10 Quiz: 34113 Guided reading level: T.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
J FICTION Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks
J FICTION Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf
J FICTION Juvenile Fiction Series
J FICTION Juvenile Fiction Series
J FICTION Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf
J FICTION Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf

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Raised by their grandparents in a remote area of Ethiopia, Saba and her brother are kidnapped and brought to Gondar, home of the emperor and his court. Saba learns things about her family and herself that turn her whole world upside down. Illustrations.

Author Notes

Jane Kurtz moved with her family to Ethiopia when she was two years old and spent most of her childhood there. Drawing on vivid memories and extensive research, she has written both fiction and nonfiction books set in Ethiopia. In addition to her own writing, Ms. Kurtz enjoys teaching and talking about writing to others. She speaks at schools and conferences all over the United States, and recently has spoken about writing in East and West Africa and the Persian Gulf. Since 1997, Ms. Kurtz has traveled back to Ethiopia and East Africa several times, and she hopes to continue to do so regularly. When not traveling, she lives in Kansas with her husband

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

\f2\froman\fcharset1 TimesNewRoman; Gr. 5-8. In nineteenth-century Ethiopia, 12-year-old Saba and her brother, Mesfin, are kidnapped from their grandmother's remote home and brought to the capital, where Saba discovers her true royal identity. Saba delights in the opulence of court life until she discovers the political treachery that threatens Mesfin's life and her own freedom. Kurtz includes a great deal of Ethiopian history, which, though fascinating, slows the story with its complexity and may overwhelm at times. The frequent aphorisms ("When lions and elephants fight, it is the mice who must tremble," for example) may also challenge some readers. But as in her other titles set in Africa, such as The Storyteller's Beads (1998), Kurtz creates a powerful sense of place with cultural and sensory details, and Saba's strong first-person voice and brave adventures will hook many readers. As with other titles in the Girls of Many Lands series, this concludes with a chapter of background history and culture, a glossary, and an author's note. --Gillian Engberg Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Set in Ethiopia in 1846, this installment in the publisher's Girls of Many Lands series centers on Saba, a girl who lives in rural poverty with her grandmother. But when Saba and her brother, Mesfin, are kidnapped and taken to the emperor's compound, they discover their royal blood; their other grandmother's brother currently reigns. Saba's parents, in order to protect their children from the constant fighting for the throne, had hidden them long ago. Now Saba has been separated from Mesfin, and as she slowly begins unraveling the politics-the current emperor, her great-uncle, is a puppet and his wife, a "hyena," will stop at nothing to maintain control-she fears for her brother's fate. She also dreads the marriage the empress is arranging for her. The author blends fiction and history: while Saba is made up, Empress Menen was an actual person. Readers may have trouble piecing together the complicated power struggles, but they may well be captivated by the glimpse into Saba's world and the aphoristic language ("Strength meant that if you fell off your horse, you walked"). As in other books in the series, this concludes with a glossary and short history lesson; fortunately, the author works many details about Saba's culture directly into the novel itself. Readers will likely root for Saba as she carves out her own daring adventure. Ages 10-up. (Sept.) FYI: Other new titles in the Girls of Many Lands series are Leyla: The Black Tulip by Alev Lytle Croutier, which takes its heroine to Istanbul in 1720; and Kathleen: The Celtic Knot by Siobh n Parkinson, set in 1937 Dublin. Nine-inch dolls of each heroine are also available. (Leyla $15.95 ISBN-1-58485-831-1; $7.95 paper -749-8; Kathleen $15.95 -830-3; $7.95 -748-X; Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-Kurtz admirably offers readers the story of a young girl first and the historical details and political intrigue of Ethiopia in 1846 second. Saba is a simple country girl, living with her brother and overly protective grandmother. Suspense builds as the children disobediently venture out of their home. Kidnapped and taken to a faraway palace, Saba is confused, but by paying close attention to details, she is able to make sense of events. Her lack of understanding of the ways of the court gradually turns into an awareness of a severe, albeit camouflaged, threat to herself and her brother. Politics is at the heart of the story and complicated family relationships at the heart of the dilemma. Kurtz keeps the pages turning as she reveals Saba and her brother's place in the emperor's line. A descendant of the biblical Queen of Sheba, clever and resourceful Saba is determined to save not just herself, but her brother as well. It's gratifying that a title this well written and culturally sensitive is now available since there are so few good novels about Africa, and especially Ethiopia, that provide a sense of the rich history in that part of the world.-Carol A. Edwards, Sonoma County Library, Santa Rosa, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Saba's Family Treep. x
1 Fear and Disasterp. 1
2 A Fierce Longingp. 11
3 Fire in the Nightp. 23
4 Call of the Honey Birdp. 27
5 Lion Creaturesp. 41
6 Escapep. 53
7 The Giants' Compoundp. 57
8 In the Walking Dreamp. 69
9 Angel Voicesp. 85
10 Hope of the Greatp. 92
11 Needles and Cloves, Dates and Silksp. 103
12 At the Top of Fasil Gembp. 114
13 The Hyena's Footp. 122
14 Wax and Goldp. 129
15 Horrorp. 138
16 The Kosso Seller's Sonp. 143
17 Spiders Unitep. 153
18 Caught Between Saytan's Teethp. 162
19 Song of the Dawn Singersp. 172
20 Riding the Soulless Horsep. 177
Then and Nowp. 197
Glossary of Amharic Wordsp. 204