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Comment: This item is gently used in good or better condition. If it is a textbook it may not have supplements. It may have some moderate wear and possibly include previous owner's name, some markings and/or is a former library book. We ship within 1 business day and offer no hassle returns. Big Hearted Books shares its profits with schools, churches and non-profit groups throughout New England. Thank you for your support!
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Burn My Heart Hardcover – December 23, 2008

6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Alternating its focus between Mathew, a white farmer's son growing up in Kenya during the 1950s, and Mugo, a native African close to Mathew's age, this novel paints a grim picture of British imperialism and revolution. Mathew and Mugo have been lifelong friends, even though Mugo has been a trusted servant in Mathew's household since the day he saved the then six-year-old Mathew by killing a snake. But the friends' loyalty is tested when rumors of deadly uprisings against white settlers sweep the country, and two groups, the Mau Mau (a band of angry revolutionaries) and red hats (police guards trying to control the Mau Mau), become a threat. Examining the effects of hatred and distrust, Naidoo (The Other Side of Truth) casts steadfast Mugo as a far nobler and more likable figure than Mathew, who fails to stand up for Mugo at critical moments. If the author's political message overshadows characters' development at times, the book successfully evokes the fears and moral dilemmas plaguing both European and native Africans in the post–WWII era. Ages 10–up. (Jan.)
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From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 6–9—Naidoo sets this novel in Kenya in the early 1950s, at the beginning of the State of Emergency, which led to the deaths of tens of thousands of Kenyans. Mathew Grayson, son of a prosperous white farmer, and Mugo, son of the Kikuyu man in charge of the horses on the farm, are friends, with all the complexities and inequalities inevitable in such a relationship. As the secret and illegal Kikuyu opposition grows, the differences in the lives of the two boys become sharper and clearer. Then Mathew and a boy from school accidentally cause potential danger to explode into disaster. Naidoo is at her signature best when describing the relationships between the settlers and the indigenous Kenyan people: her careful description of the dialogue and the characters' visible responses is all it takes to lay bare the poison of racism. The story is grounded in the boys, seen through the collision between Mathew's childish reality, and the far scarier adult reality that Mugo, only a little older, is forced to accept. As the strands of the story finally come together and ignite in a literal conflagration, the narrative is heart-stopping. Mathew is faced with a dilemma that will ultimately test his courage: will he tell the truth and risk his standing in the settler community, or will he betray Mugo? The consequences are terrible and brutal. In addition to being an extremely effective tool in ethics discussions, the story will speak powerfully to readers concerned about justice and human rights, as well as those simply looking for a well-told story.—Sue Giffard, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York City
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 740L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Amistad; First American Edition edition (December 23, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061432970
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061432972
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #424,403 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kemie Nix on December 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Mathew and Mugo are friends. Mathew is white, and Mugo is black, working in the kitchen of Mathew's parents in Kenya. Their story is set during the troubled 1950s known as "The Emergency" by the British colonialists. Mugo is frequently responsible for the younger boy even though he has slight control over him. Mathew knows little of the troubles between the races, and has his mind set on adventure. He gets more than he bargained for when he slips through a gap in the new fence his father has built around their property, forcing Mugo to follow him into the bush in order to protect him.

Mugo is a well-intentioned boy, who, through no real fault of his own, ends up on the wrong side of his father, Mathew's father, and the Kikuyu fighters known as the Mau-Mau. When his immature friend starts a fire for which he is afraid to take responsibility, Mugo and his father are blamed, tortured, and imprisoned. Mugo and his family suffer injustice at every turn and are ultimately deported with Mugo realizing that he is now responsible for his family. The author tells the stories of the two boys in alternating chapters. She captures the thoughts and emotions of both, especially Mugo, who suffers to the extent that his heart burns within him. Justifiably.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By N. S. VINE VOICE on May 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"Mugo knew the story of his grandfather's adventuring spirit. When Baba was a little boy, Grandfather had gone away to Nairobi. He found work with the British army, and when a big war started between the British and Germany wazungu [white people], Grandfather went to help carry the wounded soldiers.
"However, when Mugo's grandfather was away from home, a family of wazungu had arrived in an oxcart. The mzungu man, the head of this family, had a piece of paper called 'proof.' It said that he had paid money for this land and that now it belonged to him! Grandfather's younger brothers had protested that there must be a mistake. They showed the mzungu man the place where their ancestors were buried near the grove of sacred mugumo trees. This was their land, their sacred place. Their family had lived here under their mountain Kirinyaga for generation after generation. But the mzungu man insisted that the 'proof' of his ownership was on his piece of paper. He would let them stay on the land if they helped him build a house, clear away brush, and work on what he called 'his farm.' Mugo's family had been stunned. There was no choice but to work for the new wazungu. This was how Baba first began to herd cattle for the Grayson family when he was not much higher than his mother's hip."

Decades later, when the story begins, it is 1951 in Kenya. Baba is an adult (and father) in charge of the stables. He has spent his life here, next to the mzungu man's son Jack Grayson, who has grown up to become the bwana [master]. Just as his father had been with Jack Grayson, young Mugo has been a big brother figure to the slightly younger Matthew Grayson.

Tensions are rapidly mounting in 1951 Kenya. The British colonialism does not permit any sharing of power with the native Kenyans.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on January 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Eleven-year-old Matthew Grayson and thirteen-year-old Mugo are more than best friends. Together, they have adventures in the Kenyan bush with Matt's trusty dog, Duma. Kenya in the 1950s seems like the perfect playground.

There are elephants, impalas, and hyenas that live in the acres and acres of "Grayson Country," land that Matt's grandfather bought from the British government. Mugo and his family are Kikuyu, native Kenyans who have lived on the land for as long as anyone remembers, and now work as servants. While Matt and Mugo's friendship crosses social, economic, cultural, and racial barriers, the political atmosphere pushes it to a breaking point as their differences increase in number and severity.

In BURN MY HEART, Beverley Naidoo crafts a story about how fear can destabilize the strongest friendships. The escalating conflict between British settlers and a group Kikuyu call the Mau Mau is told through the tight lens of the two boys.

While she voices both political sides and reveals problems of both the British settlers' treatment of the Kikuyu and the Mau Mau's destructive and coercive methods for unity, readers will be as torn as Matthew and Mugo in choosing sides. Matt's friend, Lance Smithers, is charismatic and fun, but, like his father, views the Kikuyu as sub-human. Likewise, Mugo watches as people he admires and respects join the Mau Mau.

This novel transcends its historical context. Naidoo creates characters that are faced with difficult choices, but it never seems like they are examples in a social science lesson. Readers with find her characters at times frustrating, but it is satisfying to experience how they mature and change. The author is particularly successful in not only showing how hard it is to make the right decision, but also the difficulties of determining what is right and wrong.

BURN MY HEART is a compelling novel. Five stars.

Reviewed by: Natalie Tsang
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