Reviews and Awards

Screen Shot 2013-05-03 at 7.15.17 AMKirkus, starred review Screen Shot 2013-02-07 at 7.02.35 AM

Despite having penned this work of fiction as an outsider to the culture, Quirk’s debut novel for children gives readers an intimate view of rural Tanzania in the early 1970s through details of daily life, folklore, family dynamics and spiritual beliefs. …The novel offers a captivating introduction to Tanzanian life, culture and language (both Swahili and Sukuma), while the mystery of who has cast the “curse” keeps readers intrigued. A mesmerizing read that expands young readers’ worldview even as the pages turn.”  (full review here)

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Elizabeth Bird’s Fuse #8

“I will hereby give grand kudos and heaping helpfuls of praise to the librarian/bookseller/parent who hears a kid ask for a mystery and hands them Katie Quirk’s A Girl Called Problem. This book is a trifecta of publishing rarities. A historical novel that is also a mystery set in a foreign country that just happens to be Tanzania. Trust me when I say your shelves aren’t exactly filled to brimming with such books. Would that they were, or at the very least, would that you had as many good books as this one. Smart commentary, an honestly interesting storyline, and sharp writing from start to finish, Quirk quickly establishes herself as one author to watch.” (full review here)–Elizabeth Bird

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            The New York Times Sunday Book Review

“Portraying a culture that is not one’s own can be fraught with peril, from ensuring accuracy to avoiding condescension and stereotype. What is perhaps paramount is the writer’s respect for characters with lives of emotional complexity. These novels [A Girl Called Problem and The Vine Basket] achieve this, …which makes them welcome and worthwhile.” (full review here)–Linda Sue Park

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The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Full of references to Sukuma language, history, culture, and folklore, this tough but ultimately uplifting novel provides a fascinating glimpse at a tradition-bound and land-bound people being uprooted and forced to change. Despite itse setting in a faraway place and time, Shida’s story remains relatable for contemporary young readers as she navigates her own needs and the expectations of the adults around her. Strong-willed and self-confident but respectful of her elders and her tribe’s traditions, Shida is a heroine whom readers will root for as she struggles to discover a way to help the people she loves.” –Alaine Martaus

Lists and Awards:

More reviews:

“The young girl’s moving personal story brings close not only the intense battle over education and equality but also the basic struggle for the freedoms that come with running water, electricity, and medicine.” –Hazel Rochman

  • School Library Journal:

“…Readers will soon be immersed in the culture of this Sukuma village and will urge Shida on as she works hard to help her difficult mother and as she seeks the education she will need to become a healer. Quirk strikes a good balance between traditional Sukuma tribal beliefs and more modern ideas about medicine and education.” –Sarah Reid

A Girl Called Problem is a wonderful introduction to historical fiction that will teach young readers about the crossroads of tradition and modernization, culture and science. Readers will fall in love with the main character, a spunky young girl who teaches her village that when girls are allowed to go to school, an entire community benefits.”

  • Children’s Literature–Recommended Review

“Shida is not a child anymore. At thirteen, she is now a young woman and her mother constantly reminds her to conduct herself as one. No more tree climbing and running around alone. Soon she will be ready to marry, if any young man will associate himself with a girl whose name means ‘problem’ and whose family is cursed.”–Kasey Giard

“This book is so wonderful that I am not even sure how to adequately review it without gushing all over the place. I am a huge mystery fan, so I was really excited to read this one. Then, to my utter delight and surprise,  I discovered that it isn’t just a mystery but also a fascinating look into a different culture with a strong female character to boot.”  –Elizabeth Cheri

“Exotic location and sympathetic, real characters combine to provide excellent entertainment in a book aimed at students aged 10-14.  Grandmothers might enjoy it too, as did I. …History and anthropology are backgrounds here for getting to know a remarkable young woman and watching her grow.”–Brenda at Loganberry Books

“This is a debut novel for Katie Quirk, who was a teacher in Tanzania in the late 1990s and who has a beautiful grasp of the tribal customs, the language, spiritual beliefs, and folklore.  Quirk’s novel gives youth a fascinating peek into Tanzanian life, its culture and language.”–Patricia Tilton