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Author: Beverley Naidoo

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Publisher: Amistad/Greenwillow Books, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers,

Material: hard cover

Summary: Mathew and Mugo are friends, just as their fathers had been friends when they were boys. The Graysons, British settlers, took ownership of the land once farmed by Kikuyu, Mugo's ancestors. As fears of the Mau Mau Society begin to grow, the boys' worlds begin to diverge. Their friendship is being tested as they both confront prejudice, loyalty, and fear. Are they truly friends? Were they ever? This is a middle grade novel offers a fictional account of life in Kenya during the Mau Mau rebellion.

Type of Reading: independent reading, read aloud book, reluctant reader

Recommended Age: read together: 9 to 12; read yourself: 10 and up

Interest Level: 10 and up

Reading Level: 5.6

Age of Child: Reviewed by a student at North Junior High School, St. Cloud, MN, as part of the Use Your ABCs program.

Young Reader Reaction: I picked this out of a group of books because it has a cool name and a pretty cover. I knew after the first chapter it would be boring. I did not like this book. It was undetailed and had a bad storyline. Idid learn a little about the British going to Africa. I didn't know they did that.

Adult Reader Reaction: This is a haunting story. I couldn't put the book down. Although the story is set in 1950s Kenya, the themes of prejudice, change, and the horror that comes with perpetuating fear could just as easily apply to 1950s America. Naidoo is a phenomenal writer. Mugo and Mathew are well developed characters, and she forces you to see the world from both their perspectives.

Pros: Strong, pre-teen characters and fast-paced events combine to create a compelling novel about the Mau Mau rebellion. With a 5.6 reading level, it is an excellent high interest/low readability book.

Cons: None.

Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. This is a well-paced read that offers a window into a poorly documented piece of history.
Student reviewer: It would be good for book reports but not recreational reading.

If You Liked This Book, Try: OUT OF BOUNDS: Seven Stories of Conflict and Hope   WEB OF LIES   CHILD OUT OF PLACE: A STORY OF NEW ENGLAND

Educational Themes: Although the story itself is fictional, the author offers enough information for you to further explore Kenya's history and culture. She has a list of books in the back. Given the parallels with the US Civil Rights Movement, there are opportunities to eplore this, as well.

Notes: Flesch Kincaid reading level 5.6. The publisher donated a copy of this book to the Reading Tub, Inc. This is an unsolicited donation.

Literary Categories: Fiction - historical fiction, civil rights, coming of age, middle grade, 1950s, multicultural

Date(s) Reviewed: February 2009, November 2009

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