Published by Carolrhoda
Summary: Auma dreams of attending high school on a track scholarship and eventually becoming a doctor. She’s at the top of her class, the fastest runner on the track team, and her father is earning good money in Nairobi to help his wife and four children back in their small Kenyan village. One day he returns home unexpectedly, though, and before long, it’s clear he is too sick to work. Like so many other adults in Auma’s village, her father wastes away and eventually succumbs to a mysterious disease. Eventually, Auma learns more about AIDS, the disease that takes her mother within a year of her father’s death. Determined to escape this fate herself, she refuses the marriages her grandmother tries to arrange, and gets a scholarship to one of the best high schools in her province. After a year at school, though, her younger siblings are malnourished and doing poorly academically. Auma decides to take time off from her own studies to work in Nairobi. The story ends with her on the bus to the city. Although her dreams have been deferred, it’s obvious she is determined not to let go of them completely. An author’s note tells of her childhood in Kenya and current work with HIV/AIDS orphans in that country. 304 pages; grades 6-8.
Pros: An inspiring story of Auma’s courage and strength to overcome incredibly daunting obstacles including poverty, disease, and a society that does not value girls and women. Readers will learn about a world that is very different than most of their experience, and will come to have a better understanding first world problems versus third world ones.
Cons: Some reviews recommend this starting at grades 4 and 5, but I would be hesitant to put it in my elementary library. Auma thwarts a would-be rapist, and there are some pretty detailed descriptions of the sexually-transmittable aspect of AIDS.