School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Mankell's third novel about Sofia picks up where Secrets in the Fire (Annick, 2003) left off. At the age of nine, Sofia lost her legs and one of her sisters to a land mine. After struggling to recover from her injuries, she lost another sister to the AIDS virus. Now 19 and pregnant with her third child, Sofia lives in a Mozambique village with her mother, brothers, and her two older children. Her husband, Armando, works in the city as a car mechanic and visits his family every weekend. After years of tragedy and death, Sofia's life finally seems to be stable and happy. However, after the birth of their child, Armando becomes distant and secretive. When she sets out to the city to see him, she learns that he is having an affair. Enraged and hurt, she confronts Armando, who becomes hostile and verbally abusive. He attempts to reconcile with her, but when she refuses, he abandons her to the wild animals in a distant field. Oddly enough, Sofia suddenly feels compelled to defend him when the police are looking for him. Readers do not need to be familiar with the previous two novels to follow the plot or characters in this story. The writing style is spare and detached from emotion, which might make the book a tough sell. Still, this novel moves along quickly to a realistic yet hopeful ending.—Lynn Rashid, Marriotts Ridge High School, Marriottsville, MD
Ten years have passed since the events described in Mankell's powerful novel Secrets in the Fire (2003), which chronicled the heartbreaking experience of nine-year-old Sofia, who lost both her legs after stepping on a land mine. This companion finds Sofia, now 19, still living in the same small Mozambique village with her mother, her husband Armando and their three children. Their life has a gentle rhythm that fulfills Sofia. Working in the city, Armando comes home only one night a week. Sofia supplements their meager income by sewing on her treadle machine, a challenge with her artificial legs. One Saturday Armando does not come home. Worried, Sofia makes the difficult journey to the city and learns of a devastating betrayal. With simple clarity, the author never shies from sharing the most intimate details about Sofia's life, while realistically portraying the constant challenges she faces due to her limited mobility. For those new to Sofia's story, a brief introduction is provided. Readers will remember the indomitable Sofia-whose tale is based on real events-long after they close the book. (Fiction. 14 & up)
January Magazine - Sienna Powers
Shadow of the Leopard is classified as a children's book, but I'm not entire sure why. Though the young adult readers of this book is intended for will certainly enjoy it, adults will also be compelled by Sofia's story and [author Henning] Mankell's commanding voice.
INFOLINK - Saleena Davidson
This is the third novel by Mankell featuring Sofia. After all the tragedies in her life, readers will be relieved to find her married with children and seemingly happy with her life. Then she discovers all isn't as rosy as she thought when she goes to the city to check on her husband. There she finds more betrayal and violence and she must find the strength to continue for the sake of her children.... The writing [is] great, the characters and their actions are all believable and well executed.... It should have a place in most libraries.
Read an Excerpt
Before This Story Begins
TEN YEARS HAVE PASSED SINCE I first started to tell the story of Sofia, a girl from Mozambique, in a book called Secrets in the Fire. When Sofia was nine years old, she lost both her legs in a terrible landmine explosion that killed her ten-year-old sister Maria.
A few years later I wrote another book about Sofia and her family. It was called Playing with Fire and was mostly about Sofia falling in love for the first time in her life. But it was also about the despair she felt when her older sister Rosa fell ill with AIDS and died.
Then, five years ago, I promised to write one more story about Sofia. Much has happened in my life and in Sofia's, too. Now I feel the time has come for another book about her.
In the books about Sofia I mix truth and invention. What I describe has happened in reality, but not exactly in that way. Very often stories grow out of combinations of reality with dreams, or imagined events. Sofia's life merges with the lives of other people, as I borrow from their fates.
I have read this story aloud to Sofia. We spent a few warm African evenings together, talking by a camp fire. She listened to my story and now I'll tell it to you, who hold this book in your hand...