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A Powerful Middle-Grade Read About Africa, Intrigue, and Health Issues

Mosquitoes Don't Bite Me - Pendred Noyce

Mosquitoes Don't Bite Me presents an unusual protagonist in the form of half-Kenyan seventh-grader Nala, whose mother is in a wheelchair. Nala has an unusual condition: mosquitoes don't bite her - ever.


This, in and of itself, wouldn't seem to be a big deal; but her friend's father is head of a large drug company, and when he discovers the truth about her during a school project, she becomes involved in a mosquito research effort that brings her to her family homeland, Kenya, to consider mosquito reactions in her father's family.


A kidnapping, the plight of peoples affected by deadly mosquitoes that carry malaria, and the quest for a new insect repellant that holds the power to change lives contributes to a book that reaches far beyond the story of one girl's strange condition and into the social and political struggles of an African nation.


Mosquitoes Don't Bite Me may sound complicated for a middle-grade read, but its insights are perfectly tailored for ages 9-12; from its discussions of sickle cell anemia and other health challenges to circumstances of poverty, health, and a personal hunt for truth and identity.


It also excels in painting a vivid portrait of desperate people who will do anything to save the lives of loved ones, blending family encounters and issues with bigger questions of economics and problems which arise when business interests clash with social conditions.

Heady reading for kids? Yes; but when packaged in the form of an adventure and exploration, these issues come alive, making Mosquitoes Don't Bite Me an unusually thought-provoking read highly recommended for young fiction readers who will receive more than action alone.