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45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gerald Durrell for the 21st Century.
I read a review of this in Conde Nast Traveller by Giles Foden describing it as "My Family and Other Animals - in Africa" and, having been a fan of Durrell since I was a teenager, I felt compelled to see if he was right.

So, granted, there's not so much about about animals in a pin-them-to-a-board-and-count-their-abdomens kind of way, but the way Robyn Scott...
Published on 23 May 2008 by John Fraser

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Twenty Chickens For a Saddle. No great shakes. Millie Maxwell, South Africa
Quite a pleasant little story, but nothing to write home about. I can identify with some experiences as I live in South Africa. Just lost interest about half way through. Did not hold my attention.
Published 9 months ago by Mrs. M. Maxwell


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45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gerald Durrell for the 21st Century., 23 May 2008
I read a review of this in Conde Nast Traveller by Giles Foden describing it as "My Family and Other Animals - in Africa" and, having been a fan of Durrell since I was a teenager, I felt compelled to see if he was right.

So, granted, there's not so much about about animals in a pin-them-to-a-board-and-count-their-abdomens kind of way, but the way Robyn Scott brings to life the wildlife and landscapes of Botswana, where she grew up as a child, is very much in the spirit of Durrell's books. Hers is also an eccentric family - a flying doctor father, a homeschooling mother, an adrenaline-addicted brother and animal-obsessed sister, and, making regular cameo appearances throughout, her four wonderful grandparents, (in particular her grandfather Ivor who, with his crazy schemes, questionable flying skills and longstanding feuds, makes for many laugh-out-loud moments.) In the midst of it all is Robyn, the narrator, an oasis of calm who desperately wants to be a normal child from a normal family.

The book's real triumph is Robyn's ability to show us the warmer, more human side of Africa that we so seldom get the chance to read about. It's a really life-affirming and big-hearted book, like a love-letter to Botswana, it colourful inhabitants and beautiful landscapes.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Major New Writing Talent, 14 May 2009
By 
M. Steele (Komatipoort, South Africa) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
What particularly makes this book stand out is that Scott writes so well. The maturity of her prose, depth of characterisation, genuine poigniancy and wry humour would be outstanding in a writer of any age. That this is her first work, dealing with events of childhood and youth still recent and feelings still quite raw is a majestic achievement. If you want to understand what it feels like to live in Africa then don't read Wilbur Smith, dip into this gem of a memoir and you won't be sorry.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this!, 27 Jun 2008
Robyn Scott describes the members of her eccentric family so vividly, and with such warmth, that by the end of the book I felt bereft at having to say goodbye to them. Her descriptions of the Botswana landscape and her childhood adventures within it are beautifully drawn and often very funny. A fascinating picture of both modern Botswana and some fearlessly unconventional parenting. Warm-hearted and generous, a breath of fresh air in these timid times.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars OUR VOTE FOR BEST NON-FICTION DEBUT OF 2008, 25 May 2008
By 
Philip Bevis "Arundel Books" (Seattle, WA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Arundel Books is an Independent Bookstore in Seattle. Our staff believes that this is the BEST Non-Fiction Debut of 2008.

Robyn Scott's Twenty Chickens for a Saddle is an astonishing debut. Set in Botswana, it is her account of growing up with one of the most wonderfully mad families you are likely to meet, whether in real life or between the covers of a book.

She has a remarkable ear for language, and a descriptive prose style that brings the bush country of Botswana, with all its flora, fauna, and people, to magically madcap life. Twenty Chickens for a Saddle brings to mind such authors as James Herriot and Augusten Burroughs.

This is our pick as the best non-fiction debut for 2008. It is insightful, inspiring, and heartwarming. Her parents, grandparents, siblings, neighbors, and the countryside surrounding them, are truly brought to life. Given Miss Scott's parents decidedly non-traditional approach to child rearing, this book will offer sustenance to parents of home schoolers everywhere.

Whether you like to read about travel, foreign cultures and peoples, families, education, natural history, biographies, accounts of coming-of-age, Africa, science, Horatio Algeresque narratives, women's studies, health and medicine, flying... or just like a darned good book, Twenty Chickens for a Saddle is for you.

If this truly remarkable book is any indication, Miss Scott has an astonishing career ahead of her, and we are looking forward to her future efforts. Make no mistake, Twenty Chickens for a Saddle stands as an equal with the very best non-fiction published by any author in 2008.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A womderful and uplifting book for the summer, 28 Jun 2008
By 
M. W. Gibbs "mike gibbs" (birmingham, uk) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Wherever you are going for your summer vacation, or even if you are just sitting at home, do read Robyn Scott's delightful book. It has a charm and warmth which combined with the unique philosophy of the big characters within the Scott family will charm you. For those of us who know and love Africa - despite the dark side that we hear reported everyday - this book reminds us of why we can never give up on Southern Africa. At the end of it all I can say is thank you to this remarkable young lady for filling a long flight with such a pleasurable read and ask her when will see her next book?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gem, 8 Jun 2008
By 
J. H. Scott "Jon Scott" (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
It is the warmth and humour which, for me, rocketed this book to one of my all-time favourites. Do not be put off by its "memoir" genre. A few pages in, and the reader is immersed in a highly eccentric but admirable family whose members' curiosity of life is matched only by their lust for it. Set these qualities against the compelling backdrop of Botswana, with its gentle ardours and apparent innocence, and the subject matter offers a fertile narrative.
And how it is told! Somehow defying both her youth and lack of professional writing experience, Robyn Scott's writing is exquisite. The phrases she manages to conjure up are in turn beautiful word combinations, pithy phrases that gain such resonance in the family context and, in so many instances of dialogue, wonderful timing - especially the banter among siblings.
How Robyn Scott reaches such literary heights at her first attempt is beyond me. But for anyone looking for am engaging and (rare, this) heartwarming read, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful, 15 Feb 2009
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I grew up in Africa too so I could see the things she was describing in my mind's eye. However, my childhood was so boring compared to hers. And she has a real gift - she paints a picture and you see it and almost feel as if you are there. Read this book - you will not be disappointed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful read!, 10 Jun 2010
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The story of Robyn's eccentric and often hilariously eventful childhood in Africa weaves its way through the hot, dry landscape of Botswana, and has you wishing your family were as wonderfully different as hers and that your childhood had been as exciting. Her parents' love for their children shines through everything, and she describes the family through her mother's rather haphazard but very effective homeschooling schedule, her father's very heavy work schedule, her grandfather's devil-may-care attitude to life, her brother's fascination with things that go "boom", her sister's love of any creature, no matter how tiny, and a variety of much loved and/or respected creepy, crawly, or four legged creatures which live with them or near them, wanted or unwanted, on a daily basis.
The book brought back both happy and unhappy memories of my own childhood in South Africa, and I can thoroughly recommend reading it to anyone, as it gives you a really good insight into the realities of living in Africa as only someone who loves it can do. Highly recommended!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful, 21 Oct 2008
By 
Da Lawrence "Debbie" (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
One of the most delightful, down to earth books I have read this year. I didn't want it to end. Robyn has a way of bringing all the characters to life which make ema laugh out loud. A book that is going to be added to many Christmas 2008 stockings this year.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evocative, warm, insightful - Read this book, 2 Mar 2010
I am just about to finish "Twenty Chickens for Saddle" and after racing through most of the book, now find myself reluctant to finish it and close the book on the lives and experiences of the Scott family. Robyn has a wonderful story telling gift bringing her family and those she encounters into vibrant life. With a wry sense of humour (something her dad seemed to have worked hard at) she gives you a glimpse of life seen through the eyes of a child with the black and white uncompromising view of life that only children seem to have, things are either right or wrong and adults just blur the edges.

Coming from Africa I grew up in South Africa many of the images and language were warmly familiar. I have lived in the UK for 12 years now and feel like my world view has changed radically as a result, we are now on the verge of returning to a Southern African country called Swaziland (we lived there for 4 years before coming to the UK) which in many ways resembles Botwana - it too was once a British Protectorate and thankfully escaped the racial tensions and issues faced by South Africa. Sadly like Botswana has faced the ravages of AIDS, a poor country with many orphans and vulnerable people.

I am currently home schooling my two children aged 7 and 5 and am encouraged and inspired by Linda Scott's "experiment" on education - I loved the freedom given to the children to explore their world, be creative, ask questions and have the confidence to engage with adults from a young age - knowing that there is no limit to learning, even when the adults are stymied by the questions, just keep asking, reading and learning.

I am so grateful that Robyn has taken the time to open up her life to us, she is a "normal" person just like any one of us - not another freakish celebrity bio that we have to endure, but a life story of real people seen through the eyes of a real family in extraordinary cirmcumstance, which of us wouldn't have wanted her idyllic upbringing? I also grew up in a rural setting, learnt to drive when I was twelve as my brother yelled instructions on clutch control with my foot flat on the accelerator and often a spitting cobra would wend its way through our sitting room and glide into the pool and then on out into the garden, so there was much in Miss Scott's book which resonated with me and yet there was so much more that she learn't and appreciated at a young age, which completely bi-passed my school dulled view on life. Through Robyn I am able to appreciate my daughters endless questions and lively curiosity - her ability to converse with and engage adults is something to enjoy and not quell.

Going back to Africa this book reminds me of the social issues, the great need and I feel we will be going back different people, more compassionate, more aware of our neighbours and more willing to contribute to the welfare of those less fortunate than ourselves. I look forward to reading up more on Robyn's "Mothers for All" charity which seeks to resource and provide for those who are taking on the role of mothers for the many orphans.

I can't wait for the next book and sincerely hope that many more books will be penned by Robyn Scott.
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