Abela - the girl who saw lions ISBN: 9781842706893
Published by Andersen Press, 2007
Nine year old Abela in Tanzania and thirteen year old Rosa in Sheffield, England live very different lives, and yet they come together in this powerful and moving novel. Told in alternate chapters about each girl, we learn first about Abela, the death of her parents and little sister from AIDS, her life with Bibi her grandmother, her dreadful Uncle Thomas who marries a white English woman (Susie) in a fake ceremony in order to get himself and Abela to England where he can sell the child into slave labour or worse. Abandoned with Susie in London, Abela, who remembers her dying mother's dictat to 'Be strong, my Abela', finds herself a school, and in the process alerts the authorities to her illegal status. Meanwhile, Rosa, whose father, we discover, was from Tanzania too and hence is of mixed race, is living with her single mum who has decided she would like to adopt a sister for Rosa. This does not please Rosa who is close to her mum and wants her to herself. In a first abortive attempt at adoption, Rosa learns she can share her mother with another child, and due to some rather fortuitous circumstances, Abela and Rosa do become sisters It is Abela's life in Tanzania, the strength and resilience she must show throughout the terrible ordeals in her young life that give this novel such huge appeal. The style is often lyrical and always highly readable, the only criticism being that it ends rather abruptly. It would have been good to know more about how Abela and Rosa settled into their new life. A minor quibble, though, in what is a real page-turner.