Resource Type

Discuss Katie Quirk’s gripping novel A Girl Called Problem in your classroom, library, or other setting. Arranged by Common Core literature standards, this free downloadable pdf will jumpstart conversations and invite reflection on the story. Thematic connections include family, perseverance, Tanzanian history, and change vs. tradition.


About A Girl Called Problem: Thirteen-year-old Shida, whose name means “problem” in Swahili, certainly has a lot of problems in her life — her father is dead, her depressed mother is rumored to be a witch, and everyone in her rural Tanzanian village expects her to marry rather than pursue her dream of becoming a healer. So when the village’s elders make a controversial decision to move their people to a nearby village, Shida welcomes the change. Surely the opportunity to go to school and learn from a nurse can only mean good things.


However, after a series of puzzling misfortunes plague the new village, Shida must prove to her people that moving was the right decision, and that they can have a better life in their new home.


A Girl Called Problem has received multiple awards and honors, including:

  • 2014 Paterson Prize for Books for Young People Winner, Grades 7-12
  • 2013 NYPL 100 Books for Reading & Sharing List
  • 2014 NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People List
  • 2014 Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices (Young Adult)