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Children's LiteratureWhen Chandra's little sister Sara dies, it prompts Chandra to discover a horrible truth that must be kept secret: members of her family have AIDS. In the town where she lives in Africa, no one talks about AIDS. All the deaths in the community are instead attributed to cancer, tuberculosis, even hunting accidents. Everyone is affected by this epidemic, however: from Chandra's friend Esther, who has turned to prostitution to support herself and her siblings after her parents die, to Chandra herself, who was molested by one of her stepfathers years ago. When Chandra's mother disappears, leaving Chandra to care for her siblings with the help of a nosy neighbor, Chandra forces the community to confront the reality of the disease. While Stratton's depiction of AIDS in Africa is gripping and heartbreaking, the ending seems forced, overly happy, and, based on the rest of the book, unrealistic. Nevertheless, this book should become required reading in schools to educate children about the AIDS pandemic in Africa. Clark's line drawings at each chapter are sparse yet give a sense of a world that, otherwise, might be difficult for the average American child to comprehend. 2004, Annick Press, Ages 12 up.
—Amie Rose Rotruck