Study Guide

The Ear, the Eye, the Arm

By Nancy Farmer

The Ear, the Eye, the Arm Introduction

Flying limos. Antigravity landing pads. Robot maids. Programmable birds. No illness. Pantries that cook. It's a mad world, and we're just reading it. Luckily, it's also a totally exciting and fascinating world, which explains why Nancy Farmer's The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm was a bestseller when it was first published in 1994 and won the Newbery Honor award. Not too shabby for a debut novel. And Farmer was just getting started.

Nancy Farmer is a very successful young adult novelist. Her books are all imaginative and creative, and in The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm, we're whisked away to Zimbabwe in the year 2194, where Tendai and his siblings Rita and Kuda are kidnapped by a genetically engineered blue monkey and sold to mask-wearing, voodoo-practicing bogeymen. Will Tendai survive? Will he triumph? You don't really think we're going to tell you, do you? Silly.

If that all sounds a bit scary, well, it kind of is. The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm might be a young adult novel, but it mixes in some seriously frightening elements and makes us rethink our plans to time-travel to the future. Although, if there are maid robots in the future…

What is The Ear, the Eye, the Arm About and Why Should I Care?

Rules are tricky. We're supposed to follow them, trusting that they're in place for a reason, but sometimes they can hold us back. This is definitely true for Tendai. Sure, he lives in 2194, but with his super strict parents and all their rigid rules, he finds himself in a pretty relatable situation: Dude's stifled by the rules and desperate to break free. And break free he does.

Does his jailbreak go particularly well? No. Tendai gets in all kinds of trouble. He's repeatedly kidnapped, tricked by a monkey, trapped in a society that lives like it's a totally different era, and much more. Things are beyond terrible many times—and in this way, The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm might seem like a very pro-rule book at first glance.

But here's the catch: In breaking his parents' rules, Tendai finds himself. Free to make his own decisions, Tendai does some serious learning not only about the ways of the world, but about himself and the roles he can play in the world, too. So does a hot mess ensue when he ditches his parents and their rules? Definitely. But it is kind of worth it? Well, we'll let you decide for yourself… but we're thinking it absolutely is.

The Ear, the Eye, the Arm Resources


Back At The Farm
The author releases all kinds of gossip on her website, and sometimes even gives away free copies of her books. Score.

Articles and Interviews

Chances are, the author answers your top questions about the book here. Farmer is on it when it comes to satisfying readers' curiosity.

Don't Fear Scorpions
If you liked this book, you might want to check out Farmer's interview about another book she wrote, House of Scorpion.

Sea of Trolls
Looking for another Farmer book? She talks about Sea of Trolls in this interview, so check it out to see if the book piques your interest.


Fan Trailer
These kids made their own trailer for The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm. What do you think?

Why Write?
Nancy Farmer talks about why she did. Spoiler alert: It wasn't her original plan.

Super Creative Project
We love this time-lapse drawing of the book's characters, and we hope you do, too.


Meet Nancy Farmer
She's the brilliant mind behind the book, a.k.a. the author.

Call The Witch Doctor
This is what one from Zimbabwe looks like.

Here, Birdie
Check out this mynah bird. Wonder if it talks…

The Masks
Here a nganga mask, just like the ones the Masks wear in the book.