The Girl Who Saw Lions

By Berlie Doherty
(Roaring Brook Press, Hardcover, 9781596433779, 256pp.)

Publication Date: April 1, 2008

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"BE STRONG MY ABELA."  Orphaned by AIDS in Africa, Abela has a long journey ahead.

When Abela’s mother dies of Aids in their African village, she is left to face the lions of the world. Lions like her Uncle Thomas who has plans to sell her in Europe. Lions like his bitter white wife, whom he abandons with Abela. Abela is forced to stay indoors in a sunless London apartment, cooking and cleaning, and hopelessly dreaming of her African homeland. Meanwhile, in a London suburb, Rosa is distraught when her mother tells her she wants to adopt a child. Rosa doesn’t want a sister or brother. Things were so good, why did they have to change?

Berlie Doherty tells parallel stories, each separate and compelling in their own right, but stories that eventually tangle together bringing a message of hope and what it means to be a family.

About the Author

Berlie Doherty, twice-winner of the Carnegie Medal lives in England.  Her books have sold over 700,000 copies and been translated into 21 languages.

Praise For The Girl Who Saw Lions

Kirkus Reviews Starred Review Doherty artfully plaits parallel stories of two girls from different worlds whose lives ultimately intersect. An only child living in Sheffield, England, 13-year-old Rosa loves ice-skating with her single parent Mum “more than anything else in the world.” But when her mother wants to adopt a little girl, Rosa feels hurt and betrayed. Worlds away, nine-year-old Abela lives in a Tanzanian village where she and her mother spend hours each day pounding corn into flour. But Abela’s mother has AIDS and nothing Abela does can save her. When her uncle illegally sends her to England, Abela follows her mother’s advice to remain strong even though she’s alone, alienated from her culture and forced to live in seclusion. Eventually rescued and placed in foster care, Abela remains desperately homesick while waiting for a permanent family. Meanwhile, Rosa changes her mind about having an adopted sister when she realizes why her mother wants another child. Despite Abela’s sometimes distressing and disturbing treatment, this is an inspiring and compelling narrative of how two special girls with a shared heritage become a family.  Booklist In a village in Tanzania, Africa, nine-year-old AIDS orphan Abela is tricked by her uncle into leaving her beloved grandmother and traveling on a forged passport to England. Once there, she finds herself locked up alone and in danger until she’s finally able to run away. In Sheffield, England, Rosa, 13, is blissfully happy with her loving single-parent mom until Mom decides to adopt a child: Is Rosa no longer good enough? Of course, it’s clear that the girls will eventually get together, but tension builds in their alternating narratives, which include many truly surprising twists and turns along the way. Most powerful is the contrast between the protected daughter in a safe family and the unwanted orphan sustained by memories of the loving village community she has lost. The parallel stories of unbearable sorrow and hope dramatize what family means. — Hazel Rochman  4Q 4P M JTen year old Abela sees lions as she walks alone all night from the city hospital where her mother has just died of AIDS to her grandmother’s hut in a rural Tanzanian village. Meanwhile in London, thirteen year old Rosa, whose Tanzanian father returned to his native country, has just learned that her British mother would like to adopt an orphan from Tanzania. Rosa is not sure that she wants a little sister but she finds it difficult to explain this anxiety to her mother. The stories of Rosa and Abela alternate until they finally merge near the end of this inspirational tale of triumph over adversity. Abela’s new life begins when she is put on a plane to London by her scheming Uncle Thomas, who hopes to use the girl as part of a plan to gain British citizenship for himself. Thomas’s schemes fall apart, but Abela is assisted by kind social workers, and she eventually survives a new set of challenges in the strange, cold country in which she has landed.

Without slowing the pace of the story, Doherty  packs a great deal of information about the AIDS crises in Africa, female genital mutilation, international adoptions, the foster care system, and many challenges facing parentless children and the social workers who try to place them. Girls will love this emotionally powerful novel, driven by strong female characters who forma sister-hood that transcends differences of age, race, and culture. - Walter Hogan


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