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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Courtesy of Teens Read Too, 14 Jan. 2010
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TeensReadToo "Eat. Drink. Read. Be Merrier." (All Over the US & Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Burn My Heart (Hardcover)
Eleven-year-old Matthew Grayson and thirteen-year-old Mugo are more than best friends. Together, they have adventures in the Kenyan bush with Matt's trusty dog, Duma. Kenya in the 1950s seems like the perfect playground.

There are elephants, impalas, and hyenas that live in the acres and acres of "Grayson Country," land that Matt's grandfather bought from the British government. Mugo and his family are Kikuyu, native Kenyans who have lived on the land for as long as anyone remembers, and now work as servants. While Matt and Mugo's friendship crosses social, economic, cultural, and racial barriers, the political atmosphere pushes it to a breaking point as their differences increase in number and severity.

In BURN MY HEART, Beverley Naidoo crafts a story about how fear can destabilize the strongest friendships. The escalating conflict between British settlers and a group Kikuyu call the Mau Mau is told through the tight lens of the two boys.

While she voices both political sides and reveals problems of both the British settlers' treatment of the Kikuyu and the Mau Mau's destructive and coercive methods for unity, readers will be as torn as Matthew and Mugo in choosing sides. Matt's friend, Lance Smithers, is charismatic and fun, but, like his father, views the Kikuyu as sub-human. Likewise, Mugo watches as people he admires and respects join the Mau Mau.

This novel transcends its historical context. Naidoo creates characters that are faced with difficult choices, but it never seems like they are examples in a social science lesson. Readers with find her characters at times frustrating, but it is satisfying to experience how they mature and change. The author is particularly successful in not only showing how hard it is to make the right decision, but also the difficulties of determining what is right and wrong.

BURN MY HEART is a compelling novel. Five stars.

Reviewed by: Natalie Tsang
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5.0 out of 5 stars Grim but Gripping, 3 Sept. 2012
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G. M. Butterworth "Mike Butterworth" (Aylesbury, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Burn My Heart (Paperback)
This book, a Carnegie Medal Winner, is intended for secondary school kids. It is a story of two boys in Kenya at the time of the beginning of the Mau Mau uprising: Mathew's father is the farm owner, Mugo's father is the servant responsible for looking after the horses. The boys have a natural and unassuming friendship but encounter different attitudes as they meet with different characters and situations: there are those who believe that their land, stolen by foreign invaders, must be seized back and therefore violence against white people and their African sympathizers is justified - even a duty. There are whites who believe they are doing good for the people of the land and therefore their servants will be loyal. There are white supremacists who believe that other whites should not associate with them as equals. Both boys have family connections with people of different convictions. The storyline is strong and the reader can begin to understand why people hold the views that they do.

The book reminded me of the autobiographical account in David Webster's (see review). The background descriptions are similar, especially in the contrast and conflict between white kids who have grown up playing with Kenyans and those who have imbibed superior separatist attitudes and views. There are some specific references to the Mau Mau situation: DW's father actually met Jomo Kenyatta on a couple of occasions.

The friendship of Mathew and Mugo is severely tested but ultimately endures - I think. The book ends with a worrying question: where do Mugo's loyalties lie and how should they be expressed in action? Well worth a Carnegie Medal.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thought provoking read, 11 Feb. 2009
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This review is from: Burn My Heart (Paperback)
This fantastic novel strikes the heart and stirs great emotion. It's gripping pages and provocative meaning give it a fresh and unique feel. The book is relevant to everyone and is bound to make you long for the next page. Naidoo skillfully weaves the tale of two 11 and 13 boys struggle to hold a friendships, in a prejudice 1950's Kenya. Race and class divide are explored in this culturally rich story.I implore you to open your mind to the wonders that the book holds.
Aiyan Maharasingam aged 13
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Burn My Heart
Burn My Heart by Beverley Naidoo (Paperback - 5 July 2007)
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