Rubbish Town Hero ISBN: 9780552563024
Published by Transworld Publishers, 2012
At the beginning of this novel, I thought we were in a dystopian future world, where everyone was poor. But it soon became clear that we were in an un-named, war-torn African country, and that the massive rubbish heap that Chipo and his friend Dede worked on was all too real. Chipo's sister, Gentle, has a cleft palate, which she calls her 'split face'. She has seen a newspaper cutting of children before and after surgery, and has a dream that she will one day go to Happy Split-face Land. Chipo thinks this is all nonsense, but he can't convince her. We are told that Gentle has trouble eating and speaking and often gets ill because of her condition. The three children's adventures (with their dogMouse), how they get out of the terrible Old Dump, only to find themselves in another terrible place, how they finally get to the big city, where they experience friendship and bombs, and how Gentle finally gets her dream, are all part of a hard-to-put-down story that sometimes verges on the impossible, but is always a great yarn. Chipo, who is great at thinking quick and moving fast, is a sure-of-himself super-hero, but he finally comes to realise that Gentle is really the strong one. Some black and white illustrations help the story along; unfortunately the artist is not given credit.