Femi is in trouble.
He's gotten involved with a gang of older boys and is telling so many lies to his family, he can hardly keep his head straight. His sister, Sade, knows something is going on, but she doesn't want to worry their father while he's waiting to hear if the family will be granted asylum in Britain. But with Femi growing more and more involved with the criminal gang, how long will any of them be safe?
In this sequel to Carnegie Medal winner The Other Side of Truth, acclaimed author Beverley Naidoo once again tells the story of Nigerian refugees Femi and Sade. With unflinching realism, she presents the dangers the siblings face -- not in Africa this time, but in a school very much like one of our own.
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About 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.
Read an Excerpt
Web of Lies
By Beverley Naidoo
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Beverley Naidoo
All right reserved.
"Hi, Little Brother!"
The first hullabaloo left Femi pressed against the wall like a leech. The blaring bell brought a tidal wave of bodies swooping down the corridor. He glimpsed his friend Gary's sandy-brown hair bob away and disappear. By the time he could prize himself off the wall, he was alone. Late and lost.
From behind closed doors came the muffled sounds of classes settling down. He scurried along the empty corridor, trying to delve into his bag at the same time. He needed to consult his map. There was a T-junction coming up. Was math to the left? His heart was already pumping fast when the second hullabaloo struck. A whacking great thud . . . a raw, yelping howl . . . sudden laughter. Then a posse of older boys careered around the corner from the left, one almost tumbling over Femi. The boy swore as Femi's eyes met his. Dark black pupils in a delicate brown web. A flicker like a camera shutter. Femi didn't wait. He darted around the corner.
Deep, awful moans arose from a man crouched in the doorway of the nearest classroom. With his head drawn in like a wounded soldier's, he was rocking back and forth, clutching one hand over the other. Femi gaped at the emerging tattoo of red rivulets.
The children inside the room looked strangelyfrozen, except for a girl and boy standing close behind the kneeling figure. First years, like Femi.
"Miss! Help, Miss!" They signaled frantically at a teacher hurrying down the corridor. Noisy older students spilled out from the classroom behind her.
"Sir's fingers caught in the door, Miss!" squealed the girl.
"Someone slammed it, Miss!" The boy looked ashen. "Sir was looking the other way!"
Femi stood transfixed as a crowd swirled around him to see the injured teacher.
"WHAT is going on here?" a voice thundered behind them. "Get back to class immediately, all of you! Back to class!"
Femi had only been two days at Avon High, but already he recognized the voice of Mr. Gordon, the deputy head teacher. Flash Gordon! His sister, Sade, had told him the nickname. It was a joke. He was tall and broad shouldered, but he had a large pot belly and thinly spread-out gray hair. However, his voice was deep and powerful, and it propelled Femi out of the combat zone, down the corridor in search of his math class.
"Sorry, Miss, I got lost!" Femi mumbled.
Ms. Hassan raised her eyebrows and placed him in an empty seat close to her, nowhere near Gary or any of the others from his primary school. This was 7B's second lesson with Ms. Hassan, and Femi had already seen that her tongue was even sharper than her eyebrows. Terminator eyebrows, said Gary. Femi tried to concentrate on the numbers that squeaked out from the chalk scratching the blackboard. He copied the multiplication problems into his new exercise book slowly and neatly. But when it came to filling in the answers, the pen poised above the page, he began to panic, trying to think. But his brain could only conjure up a figure curled up in pain -- and a pair of eyes clicking in front of him like a camera shutter. When Ms. Hassan did not collect the books but said they should complete the problems for homework, he breathed more easily.
Femi slid next to Gary as they left the room. Even before Gary opened his packet of crisps, Femi was recounting his tale of bloodcurdling cries and a teacher on the floor with blood spurting like a fountain from his hands. He said nothing, however, about the posse of boys in flight. Something made him hold back. Instead, he let Gary go on about the class hearing a weird faraway howl and how Ms. Hassan had stopped anyone from leaving their desks.
They had been friends for a whole year now. Gary had joined the top class at Greenslades Primary. Femi had been new the year before and had slipped into being a loner. But something about Gary had appealed to him. He liked the way Gary had shrugged off comments about his Liverpool accent. His mother had brought him down to London to live with a new stepdad. There had been gossip about his real dad dying in a terrible accident, but Femi had never asked questions. He knew about not prizing open a lid that was nailed down.
By lunchtime the rumors had spread about a teacher losing a finger. There was talk of an ambulance driving into Avon school. Someone said they had seen a police car. However, apart from Gary, Femi didn't tell anyone else that he had seen the teacher rocking in agony on the floor.
They were edging nearer the cafeteria hatch when Femi felt a hand on his shoulder. He swung around.
"Hi, little brother! Long time no see!" The boy with the dark-brown camera eyes smiled and hustled between him and Gary. Femi bit his lip.
"Keep my brother's place, right!" the older boy ordered Gary, steering Femi away.
"There's a girl, Sade, in my class. Is she your sister?" The grip allowed no resistance, but the boy's voice was soft and quite friendly.
Femi nodded, avoiding looking up.
"Yeah, you look alike, but you're not as pretty as her, are you?"
Femi swallowed, his mouth dry.
"Just a joke, right! What's your name?"
Femi managed to say his name, not much louder than a whisper.
"Okay, Femi. I want you to give her a message."
So, was this just about Sade -- not about the teacher losing a finger? Femi picked up courage.
"But you said she's in your class." He couldn't hide the puzzlement.
"Girls like a bit of mystery!" The boy laughed. "Just tell her Errol likes her and don't tell her how you know."
"Is that you? Errol?" Femi ventured.
"No way, man! You don't know Errol Richards?"
Femi shook his head.
Excerpted from Web of Lies by Beverley Naidoo Copyright © 2006 by Beverley Naidoo. Excerpted by permission.
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