Maybe a 3.25. There were times when I felt like the story dragged a little bit. Here is the review I wrote for my YA literature class. I picked this book to fulfill the requirements for a Global/Ethnic novel.
Beverley Naidoo’s book, “The Other Side of Truth” is a fictional story set in modern Nigeria and London, dealing with intense political unrest and refugees seeking asylum from corrupt government. The story follows two children, Sade and Femi, who are smuggled out of Nigeria under very dangerous circumstances, to London after their mother is murdered (presumably by the government) in front of their home. Their father is a controversial reporter, and after another well-known reporter is assassinated followed by their mother’s death, the family feels that the government will be after Sade, Femi, and their father next. Unfortunately, the smuggling trip does not go as planned and the children are abandoned once they reach London. The uncle that they are sent to find is missing and they find themselves alone in a dangerous part of a city that they know nothing about. They are picked up by police and become wards of the state and are placed into foster care. When Sade and Femi are enrolled in the British school system, they face intense racism and hatred. They are bullied, and it seems that a direct parallel is drawn between the bullying they face in school and the torment of the corrupt government in their home country. The story has a happy ending, but it is not always an easy read.
I felt that the reader would have to come into this story with a prior knowledge of the relationship between Nigeria and England to better understand political asylum and the refugee situation. However, this would be a great teaching opportunity regarding current world events. I found myself going online to better understand the historical and current relationship between these two countries. The story also includes another girl at Sade’s school who is a refugee from Somalia with her family. I think it is important for students to understand the differences in current political uprising in various African countries, and that the issues are not always the same from country to country. This would be a great novel to teach about these current events, as well. Also, Sade repeatedly refers to how different her life was “just yesterday morning,” referring frequently to how life can change in just a brief moment. I think students would benefit from an assignment where they chronicled their life--which may seem mundane and repetitive--over the past few days, or weeks, and then discuss what it would be like if suddenly their family drastically changed (Sade loses her mother, and doesn’t really understand where and how she was laid to rest) and they were taken overnight to a different country, where everything is unfamiliar, with a woman they didn’t know. In order to protect themselves, Sade and Femi do not reveal their true last name when they are placed in state custody; students could discuss whether or not withholding information was a good decision and what motivated them to make such a decision.
I would recommend this book for both junior high or high school audiences. But, while it is written at an accessible level, it is a very weighty subject matter that will require discussion and clarification.