The Other Side of Truth

( 8 )


Will the truth harm them — or save them?

When Nigeria's corrupt military government kills their mother, twelve-year-old Sade and her brother Femi think their lives are over. Out of fear for their safety, their father, an outspoken journalist, decides to smuggle the children out of Nigeria and into London, where their uncle lives. But when they get to the cold and massive city, they find themselves lost and alone, with no one to trust and no ...

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Will the truth harm them — or save them?

When Nigeria's corrupt military government kills their mother, twelve-year-old Sade and her brother Femi think their lives are over. Out of fear for their safety, their father, an outspoken journalist, decides to smuggle the children out of Nigeria and into London, where their uncle lives. But when they get to the cold and massive city, they find themselves lost and alone, with no one to trust and no idea when — or if — they will ever see their father again.

The Other Side of Truth is a gripping adventure story about courage, family, and the power of truth.

Smuggled out of Nigeria after their mother's murder, Sade and her younger brother are abandoned in London when their uncle fails to meet them at the airport and they are fearful of their new surroundings and of what may have happened to their journalist father back in Nigeria.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Sade, the 12-year-old protagonist of Naidoo's sophisticated and emotional novel, must flee her native Nigeria with her younger brother after their mother is killed in a shooting. Their father, a muckraking journalist in trouble with the military government, was the target. Sade and 10-year-old Femi soon find themselves stranded in London, abandoned by the woman paid to smuggle them into the country, and at the mercy of mostly friendly, but foreign government agencies, foster families and teachers. Her father finally surfaces in England, only to be detained for illegally emigrating. Sade must learn quickly how to fight for what she holds dear, including her father's safety. The inclusion of real facts about African countries, such as the government's execution of Nigerian activist writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, makes Naidoo's story more poignant, while the immediacy of the parallel story, in which Sade must deal with similar obstacles on a smaller scale (e.g., powerful school gangs), makes the novel more accessible. Fashbacks, letters written between father and daughter, and Sade's constant memories of her mother's sayings, add texture. Readers may be challenged by some of the British English, but they will find it easy to understand Sade's joy at reuniting with her father in prison, and likely find her determination exhilarating. Ages 10-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly
Twelve-year-old-Sade must flee her native Nigeria with her younger brother-after their mother is killed in a shooting intended for her father-and must learn quickly how to fight for what she holds dear. In a starred review, PW called it a "sophisticated and emotional novel, poignant and accessible." Ages 10-up. (Jan.)
When a repressive military regime in Nigeria attempts to murder an outspoken journalist but instead murders his wife, their two children are thrown into a spiral of trauma and change. With barely a few hours to absorb the loss of their mother, 12-year-old Sade and her younger brother Femi are smuggled out of Nigeria to hopefully safer London, leaving their beloved father behind in grave and obvious danger. Abandoned in London and unable to find their uncle, they wander the streets and are taken into the foster care system. The system works well for them but cannot outweigh the swirls of grief and shock that they suffer over their mother's murder and the worry about their father's safety. Excellent writing and a solid understanding of both political danger and emotional trauma make Sade and Femi's story grippingly realistic. Profound moral questions and fierce family love underlie Sade's actions as well as her father's; their choices are both admirable and painful, their actions both passionate and desperate. An author's note explains which political details are true and which fictionalized. This novel offers many things to think about (political, literary, moral, and philosophical) and an unforgettable story and characters. KLIATT Codes: JS*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2000, HarperTrophy, 252p.,
— Rebecca Rabinowitz
Nigerian sister and brother Sade and Femi are devastated when their mother is gunned down in front of their home. Their father is an outspoken journalist who has criticized the ruling government. Knowing that his children's lives are in danger, he arranges for twelve-year-old Sade and the younger Femi to be smuggled to London, where they are to meet up with their professor uncle. After a nerve-wracking trip and abandonment by their chaperone, they search for their uncle only to find that he has disappeared. The pair is taken in by social services, given asylum, and put into the foster care system. Eventually their father makes it to London, but he is imprisoned. Clever thinking by Sade, leads to his release, and the family is reunited. This captivating Carnegie award-winning novel presents Sade as a likeable girl for whom it is easy to have empathy. The fear and conflicts she experiences ring true, particularly in the scenes in which students bully her in her new school. Secondary and minor characters also are well developed. The author creates a clear sense of place, both for Nigeria and for London. The appealing characters, different setting, and suspenseful plot will draw readers into the story. PLB $15.89. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P M J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001, HarperCollins, 272p, $15.95. Ages 11 to 18. Reviewer: Alice F. Stern
Children's Literature
From the time that Sade hears the two shots that take her mother's life her world is turned upside down. She and her brother Femi are shipped off to England to be with their uncle for safety until their father can join them. Truth is what disrupted their lives. Sade's Papa, Folarin Solaja, is a journalist who works for a small, weekly newspaper dedicated to printing the truth about the corrupt military of his homeland, Nigeria. It has cost him his wife. The children's arrival in London does not go according to plans. The uncle who was to meet them is nowhere to be found. The woman who escorted them to England deserts them. After encounters with some savory characters, the children end up in a maze of agencies. Finally they are taken in by a foster family who cares for them. The school culture that they encounter is very traumatic for Sade and Femi. It is nothing like Nigeria. Children they come in contact with are rude to authority figures, to each other and of course, Sade and Femi are prime candidates for abuse. Papa finally arrives in London but is to be sent back to Nigeria. Sade and Femi devise a plan to save their father by letting the world know what happened to their family and why it happened. This is a story that grips you and doesn't let go, even after you've read the final words. 2000, HarperCollins, $16.95. Ages 10 to 18. Reviewer: Leila Toledo
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-With political insight, sensitivity, and passion, Naidoo presents the harrowing story of two Nigerian children caught in the civil strife of their beloved homeland in the mid-1990s. Eighth-grader Sade Solaja and her fifth-grade brother, Femi, are hastily stowed out of Nigeria after their mother is shot and killed by assassins' bullets meant for their outspoken journalist father. The children are abandoned in London and are unable to locate their uncle, a university professor who has been threatened and has gone into hiding. Picked up first by the police and then by immigration authorities, the youngsters remain silent, afraid to reveal their true names and background. They are placed in a foster home where kindness does not relieve their loneliness and alienation. School is a frightening plunge into Western culture, relaxed discipline, ethnic harassment, and peer intimidation. When their father, who has illegally entered the country, contacts them from a detention center, the children are jubilant. However, their excitement is overshadowed by his imprisonment and subsequent hunger strike. Sade enacts a plan to tell "Mr. Seven O'Clock News" her father's story. Public attention and support follow, prompting his release. Tension and hope alternately drive the story as Sade and Femi grapple with an avalanche of decisions, disappointments, and discoveries. Traditions temper Sade's despair as she remembers times at Family House in Ibadan, and her mother's quiet admonition to be true to yourself. Through these compelling characters, Naidoo has captured and revealed the personal anguish and universality of the refugee experience.-Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Gripping suspense rules as Naidoo describes a young girl's world turned upside down by political events, first in Nigeria and then London. On the first page, Sade's mother is shot and killed by policemen, and she and her younger brother Femi are suddenly spirited out of their home country. Sade's father is an idealistic honest journalist, committed to telling the truth about the ruling "Buttons," as he terms the Generals. Things go from bad to worse as the roadblocks and officials in Nigeria turn out to be less dangerous than their accompanying protectoress. Abandoned penniless and poorly dressed for November in London, Sade and Femi find their uncle has disappeared and they are homeless. Hoping only that they can hang on until their father can leave Nigeria as well, the two find themselves thrown into the social-services mill and taken into a foster home, struggling to apply for political asylum without endangering anyone in Nigeria. The foster homes, school system, and another refugee from Somalia, Mariam, alternately provide comfort and challenge. Naidoo ably sticks to Sade's immediate need to be true to her own values and needs, focusing on her memories of home and cultural icons as she looks for help. The larger political message that children should feel safe and not have to fear for their lives in any country is effortlessly apparent, as is the fact that both Nigeria and Britain have a way to go in claiming safety and justice for all. Far from being a patronizing glimpse of life in the third world, this is a vivid portrayal of complex people caught in complex webs using their own culture for strength in a time of need. Real-world scary. (Fiction. 10-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780064410021
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 12/5/2002
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 205,838
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 710L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Beverley Naidoo grew up in South Africa under apartheid. She says: "As a white child I didn't question the terrible injustices until I was a student. I decided then that unless I joined the resistance, I was part of the problem." Beverley Naidoo was detained without trial when she was twenty-one and later went into exile in Britain, where she has since lived.

Her first children's book, Journey to Jo'burg, was banned in South Africa until 1991, but it was an eye-opener for thousands of readers worldwide. Her characters in Chain of Fire, No Turning Back, and Out of Bounds face extraordinary challenges in a society she describes as "more dangerous than any fantasy." She has won many awards for her writing, including the Carnegie Medal, the Jane Addams Book Award, and the American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults for The Other Side of Truth, about two refugee children smuggled to London who are also featured in Web of Lies.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Lagos, Nigeria

Sade is slipping her English book into her schoolbag when Mama screams. Two sharp cracks splinter the air. She hears her father's fierce cry, rising, falling.

“No! No!”

The revving of a car and skidding of tires smother his voice.

Her bag topples from the bed, spilling books, pen and pencil onto the floor. She races to the verandah, pushing past Femi in the doorway. His body is wooden with fright.

“Mama mi?” she whispers.

Papa is kneeling in the driveway, Mama partly curled up against him. One bare leg stretches out in front of her. His strong hands grip her, trying to halt the growing scarlet monster. But it has already spread down her bright white nurse's uniform. It stains the earth around them.

A few seconds, that is all. Later, it will always seem much longer.

A small gathering began to swell the house, tense and hushed. Sade stared numbly out of the sitting-room window to where Joseph stood nervously on guard. At each new bang, rattle or hoot, he peered anxiously through the crack between the metal gates. His head moved painfully forward and backward like that of an old tortoise. His fingers floundered and fumbled each time he had to wrench back the bolt. He had been a witness. One second he had been casually pushing back one of the gates so his master could drive off to work. The next second, his madame lay slumped on the ground and a white car was screeching away through the wide avenue of palm trees.

Uncle Tunde, Papa's eldest brother, arrived with the doctor. Sade and Femi huddled close to their father as he steered the doctor to the sofawhere Mama now lay. Her face stared upward to the ceiling fan, with lips slightly parted and a tiny frown, as if there were only some small disturbance in a dream. But the flowers on the embroidered bedspread wrapped around her were drenched in crimson and told a different story. Sade clutched her brother's hand, waiting.

“I am very sorry, Mr. Solaja. Your wife had no chance. Straight into the heart.” The doctor pronounced the verdict in a low purr. “I shall inform the authorities — and, if you wish, New Era Hospital? For the post-mortem.”Papa, usually brimming over with words, simply nodded. His arms drew the children in tightly as a high trembling voice quivered next to them. Mama Buki's cry wailed like a lonely seabird.

“Sista mi! Sista mi!”

Sade's own voice was lost somewhere deep inside her. She wanted to rush across, grab hold of Mama, squeeze breath back into her — before it was too late — but she could not move. Kneeling beside her sister, Mama Buki's tears swept over her broad cheeks as she covered Mama's face with the corner of the embroidered bedspread. Sade watched in horror, her own silent tears trapped within her, like in a stone.

Grief burst around them like a pierced boil. All about her, Sade heard people repeat fragments of the story. Mr. Falana, one of their neighbors and also Papa's editor-in-chief, had heard both the gunshots and the getaway car. In the deathly hush that followed, he had peeped out from his own gate on the other side of the road. Seeing the entrance to the Solaja house wide open, he feared the worst and rushed across, followed by his wife still in her dressing gown. It was he who had helped Papa carry Mama inside. Now he had to hurry away to warn his other staff. Papa was the most outspoken journalist on Speak, one of the weekly newspapers in English, but he might not be the only target. Even before any newspaper headlines, the news would be darting by word and mouth along the pavements, highways and cables of Lagos. When the news reached Mama's friends at the hospital where she worked, there would be no end of visitors. Suffocated by arms and voices and with the echo of the gunshots still in her head, Sade felt the urge to escape.

“Please . . .”

The effort was great and her voice was small. But it worked and Sade maneuvered her way out. Papa's study would be quiet.

As she entered the study, the telephone rang. Automatically she picked it up, covering one ear to hear more easily.

“Is that the home of Mr. Folarin Solaja who writes for Speak?”

The man's voice was soft but perfectly clear.


“Don't trouble him. Just give him a message. Tell him: if we get the family first, what does it matter?”

The voice wrung the breath out of her, like a snake secretly squeezing her throat. Frantically she signaled to Uncle Tunde who had come to the study door. He strode across to Papa's desk, but as he reached for the receiver, there was a click. Sade struggled to repeat the horrible words. Her uncle's thick graying eyebrows lurched up over his gold-rimmed spectacles. He looked very grave.

A little later, Joseph unlocked the gates for a sleek white ambulance. The small crowd of mourners stood aside to make a pathway for the two men with a stretcher. Mama Buki led the hymn singing. Barely two minutes later, pressed between Mama Buki's heaving, swaying body and her father who was silent and almost perfectly still, Sade watched them carry Mama away under a blinding-white sheet. The ambulance door clicked shut. The windows were darkened glass and Sade could no longer even see the sheet. Everyone fell quiet. The only sound was of the ambulance's motor and of Joseph grappling once again with the gates. His old body pulled to attention as the vehicle backed out, as if in a final salute. That was all. Mama was gone...

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2013


    It is a good book. I am teading it in school ,but I bought the book, but it says it is a sample and will not let me read past chapter 2.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2012


    Im reading this book in my class. Its really good

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  • Posted April 7, 2009

    The Other Side of Truth Review

    The Solaja family live in Nigeria. Nigeria is filled with terrorism, and the family is affected very deeply by the terrorism. Mr Solaja is a journalist on a weekly newspaper. The newspaper publishes the truth about what is going on in the streets and government in Nigeria.
    Mr. Solaja continues to talk about the truths that he sees, even though he knows it could put his family in jeopardy. Mr. Solaja did not prepare for the day that started like any other. Before leaving for school one day, Sade heard a cracking sound and than a cry. At that moment Sade's life was changed forever. Her mother was shot while she was standing outside their house. Sade and her brother, Femi, do not have time to comprehend what has just happened, because their father does not feel it is safe for his children to remain in the home. The children leave the country, using fake names. Their father had to have documents forged because their passports were taken away. The children were suppose to move in with their uncle, Dele, in London. Their father told them that he would be joining them very soon.
    After arriving to London, the children cannot find Dele. The children are left in a strange country, all alone, without any money, just following the day their mother was murdered in their yard. The children were found by social services, but did not reveal who they really were and places them in a foster home. The children started to feel a little more at ease, and even began going to school, but decided to remain silent until they knew their father was safely out of Nigeria.
    In the end, the children are finally reunited with their father. The time that their father was gone, brought many hardships and difficulties. The children had to navigate a new land and try to understand their new lives without their mother. This book will keep you flipping the pages to find out what will happen next, and perhaps give a second thought to refugees.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2008

    Great book!

    This is a really great book. I've recently lost some interest in reading and many books seem so boring to me now. However, for a class project we had to do a free read. This was just a random book I grabbed off of our library's shelf and I didn't want to stop reading it once I started it. This story captures you and you feel as if your heart is with the children in this book. It also gives you insight to harsh situations that are happening around the world that may be different from your own. I do recommend this book and I look forward to reading other books by this author.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2006


    In The Other Side of Truth, by Beverely Naidoo, many factual elements are presented. Although the main characters, Sade and Femi, are not real people, their story is the story of many: they snuck out of Nigeria to save themselves from the harsh political regime. The novel brings out themes of African political oppression, exile, and a harsh childhood. Although this novel is not as intriguing as others I have read, it shines a new light on your life. It reminds readers of how lucky they are to have a home, and how lucky they are to know that food will be laid on the table at all meals, and that they don¿t have to worry about their own safety like the characters in the book do. I believe that although the novel does not have mystery or intrigue involved, it highlights another theme that every one can relate to: loneliness. At one point or another we all eel alone, and because of this we can all relate to what the characters feel. The Other Side of Truth is an excellent example of what it really feels like to be an outsider, an exile, or simply different from every one around you. If you are looking for a heart-stopping novel then this is one that you must read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2003

    The Other Side Of Truth

    The Other Side Of Truth On The Other Side Of Truth every character finds out something different about them or their past. The book was a page turning book and once you start you will not want to stop. Back in time when there was a lot of hatred there lived two children. All the children are to get to a place were they can be free and away from all hatred so that they will not have to go through what they saw there own mother went to. The Other Side Of Truth Starts in a little town called Mayburn where a family lives and there is an uncle, mom, dad, grandma, and the two children. The children have just seen their mother be shot and killed in front of their house, on the front porch. Now the father and the uncle have to find a way to get the whole family to safety. On the way to England the kids go through many trials. And things happen to them. The story is a very good reading if you are into the way people used to live back in the 1930's and 40's. The Other Side Of Truth my personal opinion is that there are reasonable conflicts in the story. When you read the book its like you have mystery and a lot of conflicts put all together. The book makes you want to keep reading without stopping all the way to the end. The most effective part is the many different conflicts that happen to the whole family. The book really makes sense to me and I could actually understand, I think people should absolutely read The Other Side Of Truth. The book will not really make you aware of anything. Everyone has their own opinion about the book but the book to me does not really help you really help you realize anything. The Other Side Of Truth is really just a good book to enjoy and its really a page turner.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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