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Twenty Chickens for a Saddle: The Story of an African Childhood...

Title : Twenty Chickens for a Saddle: The Story of an African Childhood
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781594201592
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 464 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Twenty Chickens for a Saddle: The Story of an African Childhood Reviews

  • Petra X
    2018-10-03 17:56

    If you enjoy reading undemanding rambling stories that never actually get anywhere but have a cast of interesting characters, you might enjoy this book. Its about a family of three children being unschooled in the bush of Botswana by an alternative-living author from New Zealand, her flying doctor husband and their various friends, enemies and family living in Botswana. They are all very unconventional and none of them gives a damn about that either. For instance, Grandpa's bedroom decoration is the wings from a plane he crashed. Preteens driving trucks without brakes are encouraged by the parents as is riding motorbikes but not guns. Not because guns and shooting are bad, but because an animal might get shot!The title refers to a business started by the author when she was 11 - rescuing burned-out chickens and inducing them to begin laying again by paradisical (for a hen) living conditions and then selling the organic eggs at a high price to fellow ex-pats, thereby making a profit to buy the much-desired saddle of the title, and delaying the chickens ultimate and obvious end for at least a year. A good read for a long flight or perhaps a bag book to pull out while waiting in line. Nothing much ever happens so it won't matter if you put the book down or even forget it somewhere.

  • Margitte
    2018-10-16 22:51

    I enjoyed the way life in Botswana was captured in the book but did not appreciatethe author's lack of respect for other cultures she never tried to get to know oreven tried to understand in her later research for the book. She clearly did not deem itnecessary to even be curious enough. But that also comes as no surprise at all.She could learn much from other African authors who had modesty and respect for other peopledrilled into them since birth and is clearly visible in their writings.

  • Shonna Froebel
    2018-10-05 16:31

    Robyn Scott had a rather peripatetic childhood and this memoir covers the ages from six to adulthood when she was in Botswana. Her parents had both grown up there and came back with her and her two younger siblings when she was almost seven. Her father worked as a doctor, travelling to small village clinics, at first by air and then by car. Her mother homeschooled the children until high school, when they went to boarding school (her and her sister in neighbouring Zimbabwe and her brother in neighbouring South Africa). At first they lived near her paternal grandfather and his second wife, in a shared yard. The children spent a great deal of time exploring their environment, learning about the plants and animals that surrounded them. They also learned about the people, the culture and the superstitions, mainly through the contact with her father in his capacity as a doctor. When they move to their own farm, near the border with South Africa, she encounters a different environment and a different mindset as a lot of the neighbours there are Afrikaans. During her years growing up, AIDS became a prominent feature in Africa, and because of her father's profession she was very aware of the issues.This memoir was absolutely fascinating in its glimpse into another culture and way of living and I found it engaging, humourous and enlightening.Highly recommended.

  • Drew
    2018-10-15 23:49

    The other evening, myself and a few other Salt Lake City booksellers had the opportunity to meet Robyn Scott, author of the forthcoming book "Twenty Chickens for a Saddle: The Story of An African Childhood." She is a charming, gracious, beautiful young woman whose book I had read previous to our meeting. I could easily see the personality that shone brightly throughout the memoir was the same that was sitting across from me at the table. There was no falseness or pretense about her. I was smitten- having met Robyn in person simply confirmed everything I had enjoyed while reading her book.[return][return]"Twenty Chickens for a Saddle" is not so much Robyn's story as it is the story of her entire family; her siblings, parents and grandparents, and the years they spent living in Africa. Her parents are somewhat eccentric in the approach they take to everything, including the children's education. Robyn and her brother and sister were home schooled by their mother; Robyn until she was fourteen. Self-discovery and exploration were more valued than tests, homework, and learning for the sake of social acceptance.[return][return]The book is filled with stories that explore the cultures of Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa, of humor (some of which left me laughing out loud while riding public transit), touching moments with both people and animals, of frustration with the left-over threads of apartheid still highly apparent near the South African border, and the tragedy of a nation struggling to cope with the AIDS epidemic. The cast of characters (and some are REAL characters) is an amazing group of people like none you have ever seen or met. Robyn has taken all these elements, and more, and woven a wonderful tapestry that takes us, heart and soul, into a land and family not our own.[return][return]I must admit, after reading the book and meeting Robyn, who is twenty-seven years old, I had to wonder- at thirty-eight, what have I done with my life? The answer: Not as much as I could, but I have been inspired to remember the quote, "It's never too late to be what you might have been."[return][return]"Twenty Chickens for a Saddle" will be available in stores March 27, 2008. Even if memoirs are not what you normally read, I would highly encourage you to pick up a copy of this book. Seeing how this wonderfully eccentric family lived, learned, loved and cared is an inspiration to all.[return][return]To learn more about "Twenty Chickens for a Saddle" visit Robyn Scott's website- www.twentychickensforasaddle.com

  • Elizabeth Lee
    2018-09-30 18:47

    I wanted to like this a lot more than I did. That's not to say I disliked it, because it was rather good, and I enjoyed most of it.Unfortunately, this book failed to keep my attention. My thoughts would wander over and over again each time I tried to continue reading it. That's why it took me almost a year to finish it - I kept getting so bored with it that I would start and finish a different book before picking this one back up again. The story was lovely, as were the characters (the author's family and herself), and the setting. I do love reading about Africa and Botswana in particular. I can't even say that the narrative dragged, because sometimes it moved quite quickly. (Sometimes it didn't, though.) It simply was not involving, at least for me. I think it was relatively well-written, but it just could not hold my interest for long. I finally pushed through it today, and I'm glad I did, but I don't see myself re-reading this one.

  • Lena
    2018-10-19 15:40

    Given the title and the description of a childhood in Africa, I had high hopes for this book based on similar books I have read. However, this one was rather boring. For most of the more than 400 pages, the childhood could have been that of any expat child almost anywhere, as the story featured the parents, the siblings, the other relatives, pets, local wildlife and local plants. There was little conflict, very little drama, and I almost gave up reading except that I had ordered this as an interlibrary loan. The exception to the boredom came close to the end, with an informative seemingly well researched chapter on AIDS and the impact it had in Botswana from the late 1980s until recently. I wish the author had added some equally informative decriptions of the effect that the end of apartheid had on the Botswana region - socially, economically, educationally - right by the South African border where much of the "action" was set.

  • Pam
    2018-10-15 18:35

    I was disappointed with this book. No comparison to the book, "Don't Lets go to the Dogs tonight" (also about a girl and her family during her growing years in Africa) Twenty Chickens was disappointing in that the author was more interested in recounting her intelligence and how she continually challenged teachers and the teaching curriculum in her school. With the continued narration of how smart she and her siblings were, I found myself becoming bored. Of course the end of the book let us know the end result of their education. I bet the schools in Africa were happy when the children left- I know I was happy when the book ended. End result- The book was just OK. Nothing more.

  • Mandy
    2018-10-23 17:54

    This is one of the most interesting memoirs I have read, about a girl growing up in modern-day Botswana, with a rather eccentric family. The book was long, but I enjoyed her tales of family, medicine and culture.

  • Bekah Crozier
    2018-10-05 23:30

    I don't read a great deal of non-fiction, mostly because it just doesn't tend to grab my attention the way most fiction books do, but I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir. The Scott family, a family of five, moved from New Zealand to Botswana in 1987 - meaning the family would have to make a huge adjustment to an entirely new lifestyle. This book is written by the eldest of the children - Robyn Scott - who is amazingly, a year younger than I am. This book provides insight into the incredible experiences and adventures she had in Africa during her childhood. Since her father was a well-known doctor, she certainly has a great deal to share about the AIDS epidemic that occured during the 90's, and actually went on to study the price of medicines in third world countries in her own personal life. The book contains numerous descriptions of African sceneries and wildlife, and several detailed stories about snakes, scorpions, and interesting insects found only in the bush (which may not appeal to all). All in all, this is a fabulous memoir that sustained my attention until the end, and taught me a great deal about Africa.

  • Fiona
    2018-09-27 19:55

    I always find it interesting to read about lives very different from my own and this was no exception. The book was a Christmas present, along with a number of others about Africa, and the final one I chose to read. Now that I have read it I wonder why I left it so long! It was always interesting and frequently amusing - although I only "laughed out loud" on a couple of occasions. I feel enveloped in the story and rather sad that I have now finished the book. There are a plethora of very interesting memoirs about African childhoods at the moment, many based in Zimbabwe where the War of Independence adds an extra dimension. This book is instead based in Botswana, which has thankfully had a very stable period post-independence. However there is still plenty of interest to read about with a fascinating family life, characterful neighbours, amusing wildlife encounters and the gruelling village clinics as the AIDS crisis hits. The story is told without any glorification and with a considerable amount of self-deprecation. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book.

  • Liz
    2018-10-05 19:31

    How does one describe this book? It's about a very unconventional childhood in Botswana. A memoir of sorts written by the eldest daughter in a family full of characters. The family is white, and unlike the other white families in their area of Botswana- this family lives out in the bush, and are believers in health food and natural medicines. The mother who is very passionate home-schools the children, while their father who is a doctor (of western medicine) flies to different clinics throughout the country on a weekly basis. A truly phenominal book; what a life and what a perspective! The family is also positioned at a unique vantage point from which to watch the AIDS epidemic as it ravages their region of Africa. They arrive when AIDS is barely on the radar screen in their community and are there to witness the ensuing tragedy, the father's being a doctor really adds an up-close and personal perspective on the realities of AIDS in that part of the world.

  • Sarah
    2018-09-25 22:38

    First in my "I would like to learn more about Botswana" kick. The memoirs of this crazy English (?) family that moves to Botswana, written from the oldest daughter's perspective. A very interesting and often humorous read (I finished in two days), I only gave it three stars because of the ending sum up. Which isn't a comment on the writing style, but instead on the author's life. (Warning--kind of a spoiler ahead) Not really fair, but the whole somewhat inspiring story turned just sad for me when the author's parents divorced. I don't regret reading it, but after finishing it I immediately dove into another one of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books.

  • Gina
    2018-09-25 17:30

    An enjoyable account of one girl's childhood as an expatriate living in Botswana. I read it expecting it to highlight poverty and development work more than it did; the fact that it didn't actually increased my enjoyment of the book. The author's family witnessed and experienced poverty on many levels, just by virtue of them living in Botswana, but it was never the focus of the author's writing. I appreciated her respect and devotion to her siblings, parents, and grandparents. She seems like a really great person -- interesting, kind, adventurous, and intelligent.

  • Rosemary
    2018-10-01 20:32

    So enjoyed this book. The homeschooling was wonderfully eccentric and effective.

  • Jan Krehel
    2018-10-16 16:46

    well written recounting of an unconventional and de!ightful childhood in Botswana. Especially interesting chapter on Sertse and Ruth Khama.

  • Rochelle
    2018-10-14 16:48

    Just finished this brilliant book. Chronicled here are stories of a dynamic and unique family living a life many imagine to be possible only in fiction. Two parents determined to give their children a way of really seeing and being at one with their world through an unorthodox "unschooling" in which they grew up reading, exploring and experiencing all of the wonders of living in the bush in Botswana. A warm and human story. A must read. Hope it will become a movie.

  • Scott Goossen
    2018-10-19 18:44

    I enjoyed this book. I didn't necessarily approve of everything that was done and yet there were many things that impressed me about the Scotts. Mr. Scott had a real heart for the African people; the children, though raised 'on the fringe' grew up to be very responsible people. In the meanwhile we learn a lot about Africa and especially Botswana.

  • Sara
    2018-10-17 15:40

    I wanted to like this book....really I did. But, it just went on and on and on and on (you get my point, right?) I think the first half of the book with her earlier memories could have been more concise and then focus on life after moving and the father's practice in a more detailed way. Having all that detail about every little thing was just too much.

  • Bernadette
    2018-10-23 20:44

    I especially enjoyed the first half of the book which focuses on the children's younger years. Some laugh out loud moments too. It was great to read this after having recently read about Botswana in the Colour Bar.

  • Sara
    2018-09-28 15:51

    Entertaining account of life in small-town Botswana. Of special interest if you know people in the country.

  • Magpie
    2018-10-02 19:42

    Cheryl 2017

  • Di
    2018-09-25 22:51

    What an interesting childhood and family. A crazy, funny, heartwarming memoir.

  • Nelize
    2018-10-14 19:40

    An enjoyable book. Some parts dragged a bit, but it was a fascinating look at homeschooling in a very unique environment. 3 1/2 stars.

  • Christine
    2018-10-16 23:31

    Thoroughly enjoyed every word, right through the last letter of the epilogue!

  • Marianne Dufour
    2018-09-29 19:49

    Slow paced, thoughtful, intimate family story, quirky and loving. I enjoyed it very much.

  • Charlotte Green
    2018-10-05 15:28

    Robyn Scott was nearly seven years old when, in 1987, her parents decided to move from their home in New Zealand to the place of their childhood – Selebi, a town 150km from the borders of South Africa and Zimbabwe, on the eastern edge of Botswana. In keeping with her parents’ personalities, the move was sudden and impetuous. But that decision and those personalities guided seven-year-old Robyn, along with her younger sister and brother, on the free spirited, 13-year journey. Twenty Chickens for a Saddle is the telling of that journey.Unlike other biographies, this book isn’t filled with introspection, revelation, or catharsis, it also doesn’t fall into the trap that other white African memoirists have of giving the reader an insistent, if subtle, sense of white superiority. Instead it is pure description: the story of one girl’s bizarre upbringing in a seemingly idyllic country. Botswana is a backdrop to the story of Scott’s life with descriptions of beautiful sunsets across the bush or the waters of the Limpopo offering the only real insight into Africa in the book.Instead, the reader learns about the eccentric paternal grandfather Ivor with his “wild, laugh-in-the-face-of-danger life” and his dog-loving wife, Betty. We read about her maternal grandparents who couldn’t be more different from Ivor. Robyn describes her hardworking father and his remote bush clinics where he sees more than 100 patients a day, flying out from clinic to clinic and returning, exhausted, but full of tales. And her mother Linda who chooses to home-school her children for as long as possible, living by a philosophy that seems to centre around whole-wheat bread and Bach Flower Remedies.Nothing is off limits to the children and yet they grow up precocious, principled, and undaunted by convention; characteristics their mother puts down to having raised her children ‘on the fringe’. The children care for every animal they can, rescuing flailing insects from their outdoor swimming pool and keeping a vivarium of snakes. But there are also elements of their upbringing that seem irresponsible: As part of his learning through play experience, Robyn’s younger brother is allowed to play with blasting caps from an old mine dump, which nearly blow his eyes out. At the age of nine, Robyn is told to break in her own pony and then as a teenager, Robyn’s father leaves her alone with an angle grinder with almost disastrous consequences.Despite being a biography of her childhood, Scott does touch on topics dominating the African continent at that time. Botswana was independent and more or less (in African terms) untouched by corruption or racism. But when the family move to the bush, living on the borders of both South Africa and Zimbabwe, Scott does encounter it. Here, in a community dominated by Afrikaans farmers, mixed-race dancing provokes disapproval. Scott’s education in racism continues at a boarding school in Zimbabwe. In many adult white Zimbabweans she discovers a racism lurking “just beneath the surface”, bubbling up in bitterness: “Ruining their own country… happens every time in Africa”. At Heroes’ Acre, a monument to those who fell in the liberation struggle, Scott is appalled by “the years of white repression and brutality”. For the first time, she feels “really white” and resents the weight of history: “I longed, silently, for Botswana.”Likewise, the AIDS crisis is touched upon through stories from her father’s clinics. Indeed, it is the government in Botswana’s decision not to fund her father’s research into cheap, natural remedies to slow progression of early-stage AIDS that leads him in the end to give up on the country. Not long after, both parents give up on their marriage.Twenty Chickens for a Saddle is an incredible book. The sounds, sights, and smells of Botswana really do embrace the reader, drawing you in to the story until you can’t put it down but also don’t want the story to end. The characters are compelling but Scott’s greatest strength has to be her ability is to remind us that southern Africa has many different histories and is a place to be visited and loved by all.

  • Nikita
    2018-09-23 18:51

    Before I start the review, I'd like to say that I have decided to give the book a few liberties considering that it is a memoir and therefore true. Some things I will ignore, because it will be stupid to take them into account.I'm going to be a bit chronological with this book so bear with me. This book begins with a prologue that has no real significance to the story, yet is used to established that this isn't your average family. This is how prologues SHOULD be done, I've seen prologues which cram in a lot of exposition simply because the author forgot to add context in the rest of the book. This book however has a good prologue, rather telling us something, it SHOWS it to us. This is a truly promising start. And now for something completely different. The next few chapters are served to establish personality and tell a few stories that only live as long as they're being told. While establishing personality is important, especially in a memoir where characters are well explained and their take on different issues interesting, it usually doesn't take a few chapters to do so. Characters can be explained in significant events by their actions and thoughts, something that is always done prematurely in this book. While sure, it's good to establish character earlier on, having it done in passages not connected to any event and therefore forgotten probably isn't how I would do it. This continues for a while... Finally, the first storyline I can remember would be how Robyn's dad is an overworking doctor, this is one of the better parts of the book because it has a grand impact on many events it still spawns a lot of forgettable sub-plots. This storyline also shows us the psychology of the people of Botswana... once... or twice... or thrice. This is called "hammering in" stuff, not ideal I would have to say, considering that this knowledge is applied loosely to the story. Until a certain plot about wanting a new saddle for a horse, a lot of stuff just happens and disappears... poof. In that storyline, Robyn decides to start selling free-range eggs to the Botswana residents, and in doing so decides to rescue chickens headed for the chopping block. I actually really like this storyline since she eventually realizes that raising the chickens was more joyful than getting a saddle. Pity this storyline takes ages to advance and isn't mentioned for half a book. Eventually they move to a new house. This would have been a great passage, except for one issue. You see, two things are missing from the book, vivid descriptions and psychological analysis, these would have made the book so much more interesting! Opinion, retrospect and imagery! Pity it is loosely used in this book. This book had a great story and characters, unfortunately the lack of good author damaged it slightly, yet as a read, it's still quite enjoyable!

  • Stacey
    2018-10-05 17:32

    Finally! Someone writes about her childhood and it doesn’t involve alcoholic, psychotic, and/or abusive parents. Robyn Scott’s childhood was (gasp!) a happy one, but far from normal. Her Oxford-educated parents are actually a lot like the parents from The Glass Castle, only without all the mental illness. They are cheerful nonconformists, born adventurers, and restless wanderers.When Robyn is just six years old, her parents moved her and her two siblings from New Zealand to Botswana. Her father worked as a flying bush doctor, traveling to multiple clinics across Africa. They got there just in time to see the birth of AIDS, so needless to say, he’s a busy fella. Her mom, who was previously a scientist, set about the task of haphazardly home-schooling the three children. Her chief educational method is to “let them explore,” which really just seems like laziness. But then again, Robyn ends up going to Cambridge, so there must be something to it.Scott tells the tale of their unconventional lives through a series of vignettes. Her stories are peppered with marvelous characters—most notably, her own wildly eccentric grandfather, who really steals the show whenever he appears. If you read the book jacket description, the publisher seems keen to let you know that there is some serious stuff in here—namely, the AIDS epidemic, which still affects Botswana worse than any other African nation. But it is not really about that at all. It’s about a family who loves life and loves each other, and can even make living in a cow shed look like an enviable way to spend your wonder years.I loved this book. It’s quirky, funny, and never dull. I read another book a couple of years ago called Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood, which was similar in that a white female spent her youth in an African nation (Zimbabwe), but the similarities end there. Don’t Let’s Go…, in addition to its perplexing title, was fun to read about half the time, and bored the bejeezus out of me for the other half.Twenty Chickens for a Saddle was endlessly entertaining. I can also highly recommend the audiobook version; Robyn Scott herself reads it in her adorable Mary Poppins accent, which really made me wish I was British, and not for the first time. As a side note, I once faked a British accent (probably quite badly) for two whole weeks at summer camp when I was twelve.Anyway, if you end up reading this book, call me so we can complain together about some things that happen in the end. Extra credit if you complain with a British accent.

  • Jools
    2018-10-04 23:44

    Another recommendation from a friend Twenty Chickens for a Saddle is the autobiographical account of the Scott family - Robyn, her two siblings and their parents, who live life 'on the fringe'. Most of the book focuses on the time the family spent in Botswana where dad worked as a flying doctor and mum home-schooled the children and wrote books of her own.Robyn doesn't flinch from the difficulties and tensions of living an alternative lifestyle - which, at that stage, was not of her choosing, obviously. Living in close proximity to paternal grandparents brought its own hiccups and problems but on the whole this book is testament to a close and loving family trying, in their own way, to improve not just their own lot but also that of those around them. Dad is a reluctant doctor but perseveres with his career path in an effort to provide for his family, find his own path and to help the poor of Botswana - the parents become heavily involved in trying to find a solution to AIDS and its impact on the health and society of their adopted homeland.As an ex home-schooling mother myself I was interested in Mrs Scott's chaotic approach to her mission - not dissimilar to my own - since this kind of endeavour is invariably measured by it's outcome it is interesting to note that all three children went onto university and post graduate study.Ms Scott's writing style is somewhat conversational, she writes from the point of view of a teenager - or so it seems to me, until later in the book when her 'voice' seems to mature. This wasn't a quick read by any means but it was an interesting one. Knowing nothing about Botswana I found the subject matter fascinating and enjoyed the fact that this story was based around a happy family unit. This is not, by any means, a 'gripping story' or even a 'ripping yarn' - nonetheless it is one I recommend.SPOILERSadly the book finishes with the family all going their separate ways - the children go off to their various places of higher education, a cause for rejoicing, but the parents, after 25 years of married life, split up - which I found quite amazing and a little bit unbelievable - indeed, if this had been a work of fiction I would have, no doubt, complained vociferously about this ending which, in a work of fiction, may be seen as forced and surplus to requirements.

  • Joan Colby
    2018-10-14 21:42

    A perfectly marvelous memoir of growing up in Botswana which is quite unlike Zimbabwe in Godwin's memoir. The Scott family consisted of daughters Robyn and Lulu, son Damien and their iconoclastic parents Keith and Linda. Keith is a doctor who travels to clinics in rural Botswana and ends up years later in despondency over the advent of AIDs which is more prevalent in that land than any other African country. He discovers a natural herbal treatment which boosts immunity and could be useful as an adjunct to retrovirals, but is unable to convince the government to conduct official trials. Linda is an enthusiast of natural healing and nutrition, writes books on these topics and is a graduate of Oxford. She home schools her children as both she and Keith have progressive ideas about education as well as medicine and nutrition and it actually turns out quite well despite her own parents reservations about how their grandchildren are being educated. By high school all the children go to boarding schools in Zimbabwe which has superior institutions. Robyn is enrolled in a convent where her forthright behavior both alarms and charms the nuns. The family lives for the most part in the country in a converted cowshed on the property owned by Keith's father the legendary bush pilot Ivor Scott. Grandpa Ivor is quite the character: a dreamer and entrepreneur who fails time after time but is never discouraged. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross in WWII for his reckless exploits. The British eccentric tradition is certainly exhibited by the Scott family. Later on, the Scotts move to another more remote area of Botswana. Their adventures with local wildlife, horses and natives are amusingly rendered. The narrative takes a turn when the family becomes involved in trying to find a cure for AIDs which has infected 50% of Botswana's population. Keith's discouragement vis a vis the sterol substance he has patented leads to the parents selling the farm and ultimately separating as Linda goes to Britain to complete a masters, and all the children disperse to various universities.Regardless, the buoyant and positive attitudes of this family despite adversities makes for entertaining and uplifting reading.