The Other Side of Truth

The Other Side of Truth

3.8 8
by Beverley Naidoo

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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.See more details below

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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.

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.
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

Harpercollins Childrens Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
10 - 13 Years

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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