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A futuristic fantasy Check out 'The Ear, the Eye and The Arm'

The NeXt Book Club would like to introduce readers to Nancy Farmer, a great author who doesn't seem to be as famous as she should be, even though she's won many awards for her books. Our fall book is "The Ear, the Eye and the Arm" (Puffin Books, $5.99), a fascinating futuristic adventure set in Zimbabwe, Africa, in the year 2194.

Whether she is writing about terrifying Viking raids on England and a courageous young bard named Jack in "The Sea of Trolls", or a cloning experiment in "House of the Scorpion," Farmer creates thrilling plots, colorful settings and memorable characters. (For Harry Potter fans who think nobody can spin a tale as well as J.K. Rowling, we challenge you to check out Nancy Farmer's terrific books!)

"The Ear, the Eye and the Arm" is about three children, 13-year-old Tendai, 11-year-old Rita and four-year-old Kuda. Their father is Zimbabwe's chief of security. He keeps his children locked in the family's mansion to protect them from the Mask gang that roams the streets of Harare. In this world of the future, automatic Dobermans are watchdogs, people communicate by holophone, robots do the cooking and gardening, microchips play birdsongs -- and nobody gets chicken pox!

But Tendai is sick of being indoors and wants to work on his Scout badge. He finds a way to go out one day with Rita and Kuda, and they are kidnapped and put to work in a plastic mine under an old garbage dump ruled by a huge woman called the She Elephant.

The Ear, the Eye and the Arm are three mutant detectives with special abilities who are hired to track down the children. The detectives are always just one step behind, as Tendai bravely fights to protect Rita and Kuda and get the three of them safely home.

Farmer lived in Africa for many years and she paints a colorful picture of Harare and neighborhoods called the Cow's Guts and Dead Man's Vlei. The book's colorful characters include a Praise Singer, a nasty blue monkey and a horrible Englishwoman named Mrs. Horsepool-Worthingham, who serves up stale crackers smeared with fish paste and owns a Kiddie Koop for locking up children.

We've said too much already. Read the book to find out what happens!

> JOIN THE CLUB:

This is your chance to read a great book, write a short review and have it published in NeXt. To be part of the NeXt Book Club, all you do is read "The Ear, The Eye and the Arm," write your review (150 words maximum) and e-mail it to next@buffnews.com by Oct. 20. Don't just repeat the plot; tell us what you liked about the characters or explore some aspect of the book (its themes or its vision of the future, for instance).

Or mail the review to:

NeXt Book Club/Buffalo News/P.O. Box 100/Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.

IMPORTANT: Include your name, age, home address (include town and zip code), phone number and school. We'll print a few of the most interesting reviews in NeXt. Those who send reviews will be eligible for a random drawing for prizes including movie passes, NeXt T-shirts and books.

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