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.,
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
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
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.
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)