Just down the road from their families, Deo and his friends play soccer in the dusty fields of Zimbabwe, cheered on by Deo’s older brother, Innocent. It is a day like any other . . . until the soldiers arrive and Deo and Innocent are forced to run for their lives, fleeing the wreckage of their village for the distant promise of safe haven. Along the way, they face the prejudice and poverty that await refugees everywhere, and must rely on the kindness of people they meet to make it through. But when tragedy strikes, Deo’s love of soccer is all he has left. Can he use that gift to find hope once more?
I felt that this book wasn’t as well set up and raw as BAMBOO PEOPLE by Mitali Perkins, but it had something more. Something that kept me wanting to come back to read it. I call that charisma, and it’s one of the things I require in order to rate a book five stars.
Let’s start with the end. I love good endings. Not necessarily happy endings, though those are nice too. And I was really impressed with this ending. It made me happy and it was not really anticlimactic. It came to a near-great finish, slowing down the pacing gradually so that everything worked as it should. The end was possibly what impressed me the most about this book, but what really put it all together was the intense grittiness of the entire story.
I guess I was in the mood for this book, because I had just finished re-watching A KNIGHT IN THE AREA and was really pumped about watching GINGA E KICKOFF. I had also just put the book TANGERINE by Edward Bloor. But those are for another discussion.
I really liked the bits about soccer in here, and how Deo’s passion for soccer helped lead him to a better life, I guess. I thought it was really fun and easy to read.
The pacing was great and went by pretty smoothly. I think the only thing I would say about this book is that it is a little violent, but I think okay for mature middle schooler readers. A good historical read. 4 stars.
pg count for the hardback: 240