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This is the story of 12 year-old Sade and her brother Femi who flee to Britain from Nigeria. Their father is a political journalist who refuses to stop criticising the military rulers in Nigeria. Their mother is killed and they are sent to London, with their father promising to follow. Abandoned at Victoria Station by the woman paid to bring them to England as her children, Sade and Femi find themselves alone in a new, often hostile, environment. Seen through the eyes of Sade, the novel explores what it means to be classified as 'illegal' and the difficulties which come with being a refugee.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780141304762
ISBN-10: 0141304766
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 15mm)
Pages: 240
Imprint: Puffin
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Publish Date: 27-Apr-2000
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


UK Kirkus Review » Beverly Naidoo has earned a major reputation for chronicling the lives of young people in her native South Africa with powerful works such as Journey to Jo'burg and Chain of Fire. This novel is set initially in another troubled African country, Nigeria, at a time when it was immensely dangerous to speak the truth about the then military regime and its leader General Abacha. It is a vivid account of a family's trauma and subsequent exile in London, seen through the eyes of 12-year-old Sade and her younger brother Femi. When their mother is murdered by the authorities, the children's father, outspoken journalist and opponent of the regime Folarin Solaja, decides that the family must flee to London. The children will go first while he will try to follow. Once in London, the children are alone and frightened. Too scared to reveal their true identity for fear it could cause problems for their father still in Nigeria, the children are placed in the hands of social services and are soon living with a foster family. But what of their father? The children have an agonising wait, but their courage and determination, particularly that of Sade, who constantly draws strength from the memory of her dead mother, brings about an emotional reunion. This is a remarkably powerful novel, highlighting issues of oppression, murder, freedom of speech and the plight of refugees in an enormously readable manner. As the broadcaster, Jon Snow, says in the foreword: 'Not only a marvellous read but one that refuels the desire for justice and freedom within and beyond our shores'. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » 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) (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Beverley Naidoo

South African author Beverley Naidoo was exiled from her home country when she was a student in 1965, for campaigning against apartheid. Her first children's novel, JOURNEY TO JO'BURG, was banned in South Africa when it was published in 1985 and only available there after the release of Nelson Mandela from jail in 1991. It was however published in many other countries around the world and widely praised for its eloquent, moving and accessible story. Her later novel, THE OTHER SIDE OF TRUTH, won the Carnegie Medal in 2000 and she has written many other acclaimed books for children. Beverley lives in the UK.

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