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Burn My Heart


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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.


Gr 6-9-Naidoo sets this novel in Kenya in the early 1950s, at the beginning of the State of Emergency, which led to the deaths of tens of thousands of Kenyans. Mathew Grayson, son of a prosperous white farmer, and Mugo, son of the Kikuyu man in charge of the horses on the farm, are friends, with all the complexities and inequalities inevitable in such a relationship. As the secret and illegal Kikuyu opposition grows, the differences in the lives of the two boys become sharper and clearer. Then Mathew and a boy from school accidentally cause potential danger to explode into disaster. Naidoo is at her signature best when describing the relationships between the settlers and the indigenous Kenyan people: her careful description of the dialogue and the characters' visible responses is all it takes to lay bare the poison of racism. The story is grounded in the boys, seen through the collision between Mathew's childish reality, and the far scarier adult reality that Mugo, only a little older, is forced to accept. As the strands of the story finally come together and ignite in a literal conflagration, the narrative is heart-stopping. Mathew is faced with a dilemma that will ultimately test his courage: will he tell the truth and risk his standing in the settler community, or will he betray Mugo? The consequences are terrible and brutal. In addition to being an extremely effective tool in ethics discussions, the story will speak powerfully to readers concerned about justice and human rights, as well as those simply looking for a well-told story.-Sue Giffard, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York City Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

"Naidoo does an impressive job of maintaining the child's perspective on the rebellion. The resolution is poignant in its lack of resolution; the pain is left raw and untended, as it should be."--Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

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