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Cristina Kessler

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Member Since: Aug, 2000

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Young Adult/Teen

Publisher:  Pholmel/Penguin Young Readers Group ISBN-10:  0399244514 Type: 


Copyright:  March 5, 2009 ISBN-13:  9780399244513

Twins Ahmed and Ayisha, have a mission - they not only want to save three ancient manuscripts of Timbuktu from being stolen, but they also want to make sure the thieves are caught in the act so they can be punished, as an example for all who might follow.
The quest to set a trap takes them into the Sahara, then down the Niger river, facing deadly challenges along the way.

     Ahmed and Ayisha know there is trouble. Why are the American tourists - toubabs -so interested in the ancient manuscripts? Could they really be planning to steal these Timbuktu treasures?
     The two teenagers know they cannot let this happen, no matter what the cost. So they risk everything and embark on a desperate journey across the Sahara Desert, facing deadly heat and a terrifying sandstorm. The goal is nothing less than preserving an ancient piece of their very culture, saving not only a treasured part of Timbuktu, but saving a part of themselves.
     Readers come face-to-face with two heroic teenagers in this dramatic adventure by award-winning Cristina Kessler that sweeps them across intriguing West Africa, and invites readers on a journey like no other.


Ahmed jumped to his feet, stepping out from behind the termite mound to look where Ayisha was pointing. A sudden ominous silence filled the air. The sky started to turn dark, like the sun had set, but both knew that was not possible. A harmattan dust storm was on its way. One never knew when such a storm would start, for their onsets were sudden and raging.
A cloud of dust was building, eating the sky as it moved forward. The sun, still a distance from setting, was blotted out by the massive red wall of spiraling dust. Ahmed's white pants began to whip about as he reached for his sister's hand. "Stay standing," he shouted. "If we are seated we shall be covered with sand and no one will find us ever again."

Professional Reviews

The Bulletin for Center for Children's Books
Set in contemporary Mali, this novel follows thirteen-year-old twins Ayisha and Ahmed on their quest to protect their country’s national treasures from a conniving pair of American tourists. When Ahmed first meets Griff and Trudy, he senses that something is amiss: they are a little too interested in having Ahmed tour them around museums and libraries in Timbuktu where they might see ancient manuscripts; in fact they’re trying to buy some, despite the fact that it’s a crime to remove such historical treasures from the country. Ahmed reports his encounter back to sister Ayisha, and soon the pair are off on a mission not only to stop the Americans from getting their hands on any manuscripts but to ensure they are caught in the act of purchasing, so as to ensure their punishment as a deterrent to other speculators. The story gains momentum slowly, and it may be awhile before the readers understand the significance of the manuscripts, but once the it gets rolling, it is a wild and wonderful adventure through the mysterious city of Timbuktu, the dangerous expanse of Sahara Desert, and the bustling energy of a distant nomadic encampment. Ahmed and Ayisha are a formidable pair, and readers will enjoy problem-solving along with the sibs as they dig themselves deeper and deeper into the investigation, running into boundless danger at every turn. Kessler (author of Our Secret, Siri Aang) has created a world rich in cultural detail, and there is abundant cross-genre appeal; the novel is at once an adventure, a mystery, a family story, an exploration of a distant culture, a study in gender in the Muslim society, and an examination of the elemental questions of right and wrong. An author’s note and several glossaries are included. HM

School Library Journal
Gr 6–9—Determined to catch a pair of tourists in the act of illegally purchasing ancient manuscripts in Timbuktu, Ayisha and her twin brother, Ahmed, embark on a risky entrapment scheme that takes them on a harrowing trip into the Sahara desert and down the Niger River. Although he's only 12, Ahmed is already an accomplished linguist who makes needed money for his family by guiding tourists around that fabled city. As a proper Muslim girl, Ayisha would not normally meet such strangers, but she is clever and determined, finding a way to be included in one of his jobs. Ayisha is the focus of this third-person narrative, but because the author needs to introduce so much of Malian culture to her readers, the girl must notice and comment on much that she would normally take for granted. Through her eyes and Ahmed's explanations, readers learn a great deal about their world. Kessler's own travels inform the narrative, but teens will appreciate the survival adventure as much as the unique setting. A glossary of words and phrases in French, Arabic, and Tamashek is appended.—Kathleen Isaacs, Towson University, MD

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Reader Reviews for "Trouble in Timbuktu"

Reviewed by Paul Judges 7/1/2009
Looks like a great story.

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