Set in South Africa in the 1990s, a time when an increasing number of young black South Africans are dealing with the violence, the legacy of disrupted schooling and the continued struggle for survival. The story focuses on one boy's struggle for survival as he leaves the violence of his home and joins a gang of children living on the streets.
The South African author who illuminated the struggles of apartheid in two previous novels for children (Journey to Jo'burg; Chain of Fire) is back with a powerful novel about the plight of a 12-year-old black boy who runs away from an abusive home and becomes a street child in the suburbs of Johannesburg. Sipho soon finds that the life of street children, or malunde, is grim-scrabbling a few coins, begging, sleeping under cardboard boxes and sniffing glue. It would have been easy for Naidoo to foreshadow all the troubles Sipho has, then preach about the immorality of the situation. Instead, she writes effortlessly from the boy's point of view, so that his confusion, eagerness and naive wishes unfold naturally. Naidoo's evident knowledge of her subject and her humane approach allow a rare and moving glimpse into the hidden world of the malunde, and Sipho's eventual rescue from the streets lends a complex note of optimism to an otherwise woeful story. Ages 8-12.