Top positive review
5 people found this helpful
Carnegie-shortlisted brief novel that packs a lot in, and shows readers life in a very different place
on 29 March 2015
A short novel that manages to incorporate running, the Olympics, Ethiopian history, poverty, and a family mystery in less than 200 pages. Which at times means it feels a little rushed, but I still felt it was an exciting story for the age group that isn't too difficult a read for even 7--8 year old new readers.
Solomon lives in a small village in Ethiopia, miles from the nearest big town, with his parents, sisters and grandfather on their farm. He runs every day to school - five miles each way, and dreams about becoming an athlete, like his heroes, currently off winning medals at the Olympics. Out of the blue, his grandfather one day tells him he will take him to the capital the next day, now he is eleven and old enough. They don't have a lot of money and so will walk the twenty miles. After a long journey, and after meeting some rather reluctant family members, Solomon's grandfather is taken ill, after he reveals to Solomon some surprising facts about his own history. In the midst of the Olympic athletes triumphant parade, Solomon must decide how to get home to tell his parents about the illness. The bus home is liable to break down - can he run all that way?
It's a pacy story, a lot happens with no let-up. It all does fit into the short running length and satisfactorily.
It's also an insight into Ethiopian life, both in the villages and the larger towns/cities, which teachers will find useful for lesson plans. The mystery of Grandfather's story is fascinating, and hints at dark times in the past without needing to show us detail. Solomon is an appealing hero, brave and honest and a good, dutiful grandson.
It did feel a little rushed at times, but I did feel the plot elements came together well and that children reading will enjoy the story. It's one for primary-aged children and would make a great class reader with its short chapters, lots of discussion points and a protagonist they will root for.