Robyn Scott's affectionate memoir of growing up in rural Botswana will grip you from the start. She was six, and the eldest of three, when her parents upped sticks from New Zealand to live in the former mining town of Selebi.

The Scotts moved into a converted cowshed opposite the home of Grandpa Ivor, who had served as pilot to Botswana's first president Seretse Khama, and major animal lover Granny Betty - the sole remaining residents of Selebi.

Leo Tolstoy's view that all happy families resemble one another could never be more wrong than in the Scotts' case. Her family are a mad and unique bunch.

Her mum Linda, with her near pathological optimistic outlook, has a deep belief in alternative medicine, home-schooling, home births, biodynamic farming - anything alternative, really. Her father Keith, a flying doctor, shares her views, and inherited Grandpa Ivor's love of a crazy plan to make money - that rarely proved successful.

The family is a joy to read about and if Robyn does go into too much detail at times, mostly she spins a great yarn.

The kids were home-schooled until Robyn went to boarding school in Zimbabwe at 14. They were let out on a very, very long leash and were free to explore the bush, leading to lots of stories involving poisonous snakes.

Later, when the family moved to a big farm on the South African border, hairy tales of crocs, poachers and her parents' mad ideas continued, though sometimes with a darker backdrop due to the growing HIV/AIDS crisis and also Robyn's first awareness of racial tension.

In 1995 Keith started to inform his patients if he thought they had AIDS, which did not make him a popular doctor, although by the end of 1997 teachings on the epidemic became part of the syllabus in Botswana schools. The initial lack of antiretroviral drugs and education left him fuming, which was why he eventually left the country.

Robyn Scott's voice is fresh; her descriptions of both place - she evokes Botswana's beauty so well - and people are impressive, and all the more considering she is only 26.

Not only does her childhood make for a great story (it will appeal to teenagers and adults alike), but it also keeps our interest with the history of Botswana, details of which are nicely interweaved. Hers was mostly a happy childhood, she does not dwell on the bad times, meaning it's never boring.

Mary McCarthy