From Publishers Weekly
Journalist Ferreira's somewhat awkward yet timely first novel centers on 11-year-old Vusi Ngugu, who lives with his extended Zulu family in post-apartheid South Africa. His kin's subsistence lifestyle contrasts dramatically with the privileged existence of the nearby white farmers. One day, Vusi, accompanied by Gillette, the dog he has adopted, ventures onto the land owned by one of the white farmers, "to prove to himself that he is not scared." There he meets 12-year-old Shirley, the farmer's daughter, and the two bond immediately, despite the fact that neither speaks the other's language. The strongest passages center on Vusi and his family, especially Vusi's discovery of Gillette as a pup and their blossoming relationship. Except for a progressive-thinking farmer, Robert Rudolph, many of the sections focusing on white characters become stilted (e.g., "When Shirley gets home that day, she is torn between excitement at the encounter [with Vusi], the fun they had communicating across the language barrier, and trepidation at what her parents would say about a black stranger trespassing on the farm"). Rather forced dialogue from Shirley's father and some of his cronies underscores their bigotry. But the narrative also reveals the economic, social and cultural ramifications of the democratic government under Mandela. Even with the rather heavy-handed message, likable Vusi's coming-of-age tale delivers some affecting scenes and, for readers unfamiliar with South African politics, some eye-opening realities. Ages 10-up.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Grade 4-6-The setting for this story of a boy and his love for his dog is newly independent South Africa with all of its racial prejudice and poverty. Vusi, 11, needs a friend and finds two most unlikely ones-a three-legged dog he names Gillette because his sharp teeth remind him of his father's razor, and Shirley Montgomery, a white girl. Vusi comes from a very poor black family, and his mother makes it clear that there is no spare food for a dog, so he hides his pet. When Shirley runs away to protest her parents' decision to send her to boarding school, all of the neighbors search for her, but it is the dog that finds her, injured and frightened. In somewhat of a fairy-tale ending, Shirley's previously racist father now accepts her black friend, employs the boy's parents, and allows the family to live on his land. Shirley is allowed to remain at home, and the much-needed rains finally come. Still, Ferreira presents an authentic picture of the chasm between the haves and the have-nots. Contrivances aside, readers will enjoy the exciting adventure as Vusi goes on his first hunt with Gillette, a rite of passage in his culture.
Dorothy N. Bowen, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.