Number of Pages: 456
Publication Date: November 24, 2013
*This was part of the OnlineBookClub.org Book of the Day Program*
Nine-year-old Tony Edwards from London is put on a plane to rejoin his distant parents in Africa. Though only after a mere five days, the young boy is sent to Kongwa School to be once again away from his parents and experience things that many cannot even imagine.
There are dangerous animals out in the wilderness of Africa, storms, and unknowns that even the littlest step can put your like at risk. On top of this, Tony still needs to focus on his studies, has to deal with bullying, and understand girls.
This is another read that I have mixed feelings for, but let’s start with the positives. I think Edwards captures the mindset of a boy extremely well, as well as, the morality of relationships back then. Even if I didn’t know the time period, the 1950s, it would have been easily identifiable due to the mannerisms placed throughout the book. For instance, the use of ‘Sir’ with every interaction with a teacher, the respect and innocence of girls and relationships, and how more outdoorsy the children are versus today’s children.
I did enjoy some of the scenes where the author brought up with the students’ interactions with animals – lionesses, locusts, mamba snakes, mosquitoes, etc. It seemed authentic and puts a different spin on the author’s upbringing in comparison to mine. However, I do wish there were more of these scenes and less of the fighting between the boys that happened toward the beginning of the book. I became rather tired of reading how often the boys fought. As a quick warning, some of the fighting scenes get pretty brutal.
When thinking about characterization, I can honestly pinpoint only a few characters and remember who they were in relation to Tony. The rest of his friends seemed to blend with one another. Maybe this was the intent since Tony aged and matured throughout the years, but I like getting to know the main characters in any story. Though one of the characters that I did really like, was Hazel. She becomes Tony’s girlfriend as he gets a bit older in school. She seemed sweet, kind, and endearing.
At times, I found the plot to be a bit slow. There seemed to have been pages when not much happened, and I had to stop myself from skimming these parts. For instance, I appreciated that Tony made up stories for his friends to entertain them, but the one where he and his friends pretended to find terrorists plotting didn’t really fit into the plot well. It took away from the story and disrupted the flow.
Another aspect that I became somewhat frustrated with was the language switches. I understand that the language many Africans spoke was Swahili, but I don’t know this language. When dialogue happened in Swahili, I skimmed these parts and just read the English, if the English was present. If it was just a phrase here and there, then that would be one thing, but there were Kindle pages of this happening.
Overall, Edwards seemed to have lived an interesting childhood and perhaps one that I wouldn’t be too much of a fan of (mosquitoes, no thank you!), but I wish there would have been more of actually living in Africa and that I would’ve gotten know more of some of the other characters.