Hope Is Our Only Wing
by Rutendo Tavengerwei
Pub Date: 10 Sep 2019
read courtesy of Netgalley.com
Note: Let your readers know that there is a glossary at the back of the book. Because I read this as a digital galley, I didn't find the glossary until after I finished reading, and it would have been helpful to have been aware of it earlier.
I agree with prior reviews that this is a middle school book, but I also think that it's not as easy a read as others have noted. While the vocabulary is not too difficult (besides the references to African terms, for which there is a glossary), the concepts of politics and disease and cultural references might pose a challenge for some students. We're lucky, however, in this time of the Internet, that we have the ability to easily quench our curiosities. For example, as a result of a reference to "Oliver Mtukudzi's timeless voice," I was able to find out that he died recently, January 2019, and hear an example of his sound on YouTube (https://youtu.be/p-JUy6p0Qpw). And though I could figure out what ZESA was from context, I could also look up that it's the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority.
As an educator, I was drawn to the words of wisdom one character's grandfather imparted, one "could quit if it was the instrument that was making him miserable. But if it was the learning he was trying to avoid, he would have to toughen up."
In spite of the unfamiliarity with the setting, readers will be drawn in by the developing friendship between the two main characters. As readers we're given room to experience the interplay of actions and feelings the two girls experience rather than being explicitly spoon fed what to think and feel. I liked that about Tavengerwei's style. I think sophisticated middle school readers will like this story.