Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), Hardcover, 9780374392239, 208pp.
Publication Date: September 1, 2002
An honest and compassionate look at post-apartheid South Africa
Vusi, an eleven-year-old Zulu boy growing up in poverty in rural South Africa, is enchanted by the helpless puppy he finds in the bush. He names it Gillette for its razor-sharp teeth and hides it from his mother, who disapproves of bush dogs as pets. His devotion to Gillette only grows stronger after the puppy is mauled by a leopard and loses a leg. But as boy and dog play carefree games, storm clouds are gathering over Vusi's family - ruthless rival taxi owners are trying to drive his father out of business. While Vusi and Gillette learn to hunt together, they meet the daughter of a neighboring white farmer. Gillette becomes the catalyst for their unlikely friendship, which has a decisive impact on the fate of Vusi's whole family - and the larger community.
A starkly realistic story set against the backdrop of the country's tortured racial history, Zulu Dog holds out the hope that a new generation of South Africans can create a better future for their land. Zulu Dog is a 2003 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.
"Two children and a dog offer a tentative hope for a strife-ridden, modern South Africa . . . Vusi is a meticulously drawn character, whose singleminded adoration of his dog is universal, but whose beliefs and concerns are uniquely Zulu . . . Offers a glorious description of, as well as a valuable insight into, a part of the world that probably has never hit the radar screen of most young readers. A historical note precedes the story, contexualizing the tensions presented within." - Kirkus Reviews