Secrets in the Fire

Secrets in the Fire


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Secrets in the Fire by Henning Mankell, Ken Turner

It is the wise old woman of the village who teaches young Sofia about the secrets in the fire. Within the flames hide all things past and all things yet to be. But not even old Muazena can see the horrors the fire holds for Sofia and her family—not the murderous bandits who drive them from their home, and not the landmine that takes Sofia’s legs. In her long journey toward recovery, Sofia must still deal with growing up. Along the way, she discovers friends, and foes, in places she’d never expected. Through it all, Sofia draws on a strength she never knew she had, a fire of her own that’s been a secret all along. In beautifully spare, unsentimental language, Henning Mankell’s stunning novel puts a very human face on the suffering in Africa.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781550378009
Publisher: Annick Press, Limited
Publication date: 09/06/2003
Pages: 176
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range: 12 - 14 Years

About the Author

Henning Mankell is one of Sweden's best-selling authors. His works for children have earned him several awards, including the prestigious Astrid Lindgren Prize. Secrets in the Fire won the 2002 Sankei Children's Publishing Culture Award.

Anne Connie Stuksrud has published two short-story collections for young adults and is currently working on her third book.


Mozambique, Africa

Date of Birth:

February 3, 1948

Place of Birth:

Stockholm, Sweden


Folkskolan Elementary Shool, Sveg; Högre Allmäna Läroverket, Borås

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Sofia is running through the night. It's dark and she's terrified.

She doesn't know why she's running, why she's scared, or where she's going.

But there's something behind her, something deep in the darkness that frightens her. She knows she has to go faster, she has to run faster. Whatever the invisible thing behind her is, it's getting closer and closer. She's frightened and alone and all she can do is run.

She's running along a path that twists between low trees and thornbushes. She can't see the path, but she knows it by heart. Her feet know where the path turns and where it is straight. It's the path she walks along every morning with her sister, Maria, that leads out to the field where they grow maize and greens and onions. Every morning at dawn she walks along it, and every night, just before dusk, she and Maria return with their Mama Lydia to the hut where they all live.

But why is she running there now, in the darkness of the night?

What is it that hunts her in the darkness a beast with no eyes? She can feel its breath on her neck, and she tries to run even faster.

But she doesn't have the strength. Her first thought is to hide. To get off the path, to curl up and shrink into the bushes. She leaps the way she's seen the antelopes leap, and leaves the ground.


Then she realizes.

That's exactly what the beast in the darkness wants her to do -- leave the path: the most dangerous thing of all.

Every morning Mama Lydia would say: Never leave the path. Not even by a step. Never take shortcuts. Promise me that.


She knows there's something dangerous in the ground. Armed soldiers that no one can see. Buried in the ground, invisible. Waiting and waiting for a foot to step on them. She tries desperately to keep hovering in the air. She knows she mustn't put her feet back on the ground. But she hasn't got the strength to keep hovering she hasn't got wings like a bird and she's being pulled towards the ground and the soles of her feet are already touching the dry earth.


Then she wakes up.

She's wet with sweat, her heart hammers in her chest, and at first she doesn't know where she is. But then she hears the breathing of her sleeping brother and mother. They're lying close to each other on the floor of the hut.

She reaches out carefully and touches her mother's back. Her mother stirs, but doesn't wake.

Sofia lies with open eyes in the silence and the dark. Mama Lydia's breathing is light and irregular, as if she were already awake and preparing the porridge for their morning meal. On her left side is Alfredo.

Before too long there will be another person sleeping on the floor of the hut. Mama Lydia is due to have a baby soon. Sofia has seen her fat before. She knows there can't be many days to go.

She thinks about her dream. Now that she's woken up, she's both relieved and happy, but she's also sad.

She thinks about her dream -- and about what happened that morning one year ago.

She thinks about Maria, whose breathing she can no longer hear in the darkness.

Maria, who is gone.


Sofia lies awake in the darkness for a long time. An owl hoots somewhere outside, and a wary rat rustles outside the straw wall of the hut.

She thinks about what happened that morning, when everything was as it used to be, and she and Maria were on their way to help Lydia weed the fields on the outskirts of the village.

And she thinks about all the things that happened before then.

What People are Saying About This

An important read for anyone who cares about people and the global landmine crisis.

Heather Mills McCartney

An important read for anyone who cares about people and the global landmine crisis.
— and her husband Sir Paul McCartney are Goodwill Am

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