This is another title I am reading since I’m on a selection committee for an award. Not my regular YA dystopian.
This is story of an African child living in her village until the soldiers come – and then she must run….and survive. She continues running – running away from her village; running to (and later from) the refugee camp; then running toward her future. So it’s similar to Caminar in that it talks about a child fleeing the village in Africa due to war, but this is not in verse and it is from a girl’s perspective. It’s a bit more real too.
Poni is a child and the story beings with her friend becoming a child-bride. Within the first two chapters, we see how life is hard and not fair for women in her village. Daily life continues for a couple of chapters then there is a bombing in the middle of the night which causes Poni to run and flee with various people from her village. As days, and possibly weeks pass, the walk these villagers take to the next village is difficult and many die. Finally, they reach the next village and the United Nations workers, but life in Africa is not any easier.
While Caminar focuses on one boy’s ability to survive in the wilderness, Poni must survive in a Refugee Camp. It’s not a nice situation and I would not recommend this book for any pre-teen. While I love a strong ‘overcome hardships’ and a strong female character, especially a child – the image of a mom running from bombs with a headless child on her back, a rape that happens in front of Poni’s eyes against a child, starving adults and children who die along the walk through the dessert, child bride who dies in childbirth, and all the death that surrounds her….. these points of the story made me bothered, and I’m an adult.
The authors have experience working with the Sudanese and I don’t doubt these stories occurred, but for a lesson in war, refugee camps, African history, girl empowerment, I’d go elsewhere for a young reader. 8th graders and above can handle it.
Poni is strong. She finds a nun with a convent who takes her in and eventually she gets to America to continue her education, but along the way she must leave her childhood, her only friends, and lose her family.
Lost Girl Found —- she was lost in the dessert and the refugee camp, then found by her rescuer and rescued because she was a hard worker and wanted to learn. While it’s a good story, I can’t imagine preteens picking it up on their own to read. It could be a good assignment, but I’d worry about parent backlash for the above mentioned reasons.
It’s nominated for the Arkansas Teen Book Award and adults may think it’s a great story, but I doubt the teens vote on it.