What does it mean to be loyal?
Mathew and Mugo, two boys—one white, one black—share an uneasy friendship in Kenya in the 1950s. They're friends even though Mathew's dad owns the land and everything on it. They're friends despite the difference in their skin color. And they're friends in the face of the growing Mau Mau rebellion, which threatens British settlers with violence as black Kenyans struggle to win back their land and freedom. But suspicions and accusations are escalating, and an act of betrayal could change everything.
Internationally acclaimed, award-winning author Beverley Naidoo explores the fragile bonds of friendship in this stunning novel about prejudice, fear, and the circumstances that bring people together—and tear them apart.
Alternating its focus between Mathew, a white farmer's son growing up in Kenya during the 1950s, and Mugo, a native African close to Mathew's age, this novel paints a grim picture of British imperialism and revolution. Mathew and Mugo have been lifelong friends, even though Mugo has been a trusted servant in Mathew's household since the day he saved the then six-year-old Mathew by killing a snake. But the friends' loyalty is tested when rumors of deadly uprisings against white settlers sweep the country, and two groups, the Mau Mau (a band of angry revolutionaries) and red hats (police guards trying to control the Mau Mau), become a threat. Examining the effects of hatred and distrust, Naidoo (The Other Side of Truth) casts steadfast Mugo as a far nobler and more likable figure than Mathew, who fails to stand up for Mugo at critical moments. If the author's political message overshadows characters' development at times, the book successfully evokes the fears and moral dilemmas plaguing both European and native Africans in the post WWII era. Ages 10 up.