The Girl Who Saw Lions
"BE STRONG MY ABELA." Orphaned by AIDS in Africa, Abela has a long journey ahead.
When Abela’s mother dies of Aids in their African village, she is left to face the lions of the world. Lions like her Uncle Thomas who has plans to sell her in Europe. Lions like his bitter white wife, whom he abandons with Abela. Abela is forced to stay indoors in a sunless London apartment, cooking and cleaning, and hopelessly dreaming of her African homeland. Meanwhile, in a London suburb, Rosa is distraught when her mother tells her she wants to adopt a child. Rosa doesn’t want a sister or brother. Things were so good, why did they have to change?
Berlie Doherty tells parallel stories, each separate and compelling in their own right, but stories that eventually tangle together bringing a message of hope and what it means to be a family.
Grade 5–8—The Girl Who Saw Lions is an enticing narrative told in two parallel stories that converge in a satisfying ending. Abela, who lives in Tanzania, has become an orphan due to AIDS. After her parents die, her uncle schemes her away from her loving but poor grandmother, with the idea of selling her for adoption in England. Meanwhile, Rosa, who lives with her mother in England, has never quite fit in at school. When she learns that her mother is thinking about adopting a child from Tanzania, she is resistant because it might break up the special bond that they share. It is obvious just a few chapters into the book that there is a connection between Rosa and Abela—two very different girls who at first are separated both physically and metaphorically by a thousand miles. Doherty takes on multiple complex subjects including female circumcision, child trafficking, cross-culture adoption, and the death of relatives. At times, the number of issues threatens to overwhelm the story, but, ultimately, patient readers will be rewarded.—Ernie Bond, Salisbury University, MD Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. In a village in Tanzania, Africa, nine-year-old AIDS orphan Abela is tricked by her uncle into leaving her beloved grandmother and traveling on a forged passport to England. Once there, she finds herself locked up alone and in danger until she’s finally able to run away. In Sheffield, England, Rosa, 13, is blissfully happy with her loving single-parent mom until Mom decides to adopt a child: Is Rosa no longer good enough? Of course, it’s clear that the girls will eventually get together, but tension builds in their alternating narratives, which include many truly surprising twists and turns along the way. Most powerful is the contrast between the protected daughter in a safe family and the unwanted orphan sustained by memories of the loving village community she has lost. The parallel stories of unbearable sorrow and hope dramatize what family means. Grades 6-12. --Hazel Rochman
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