Beverley Naidoo’s novel engages children by featuring believable yet courageous child protagonists. While they interact frequently with adults and are often dependent on them, the siblings also take initiative and solve problems on their own. Naidoo establishes a series of difficult situations with which Sade and her younger brother Femi must cope. Some of these occur within their native Nigeria, a country with which many readers may be unfamiliar. By focusing on the family dynamics, Naidoo brings a foreign country into a child’s frame of reference. Although their mother is the victim of violence, that incident is not presented. Instead, the children hear gunshots and then see their mother, close to death, after she was shot. In this way, the idea is clearly established that the family is in danger, and the reader will understand that the children must leave their home.
Entering an unfamiliar situation in a far-away land is likely to resonate with many child readers. When Sade and Femi reach London, England, at first it seems that their transition will occur smoothly. Even though they had to travel illegally with a stranger, they look forward to their uncle’s meeting them upon arrival. However, after this plan falls apart, the children find themselves dependent on their own resourcefulness. While the number of difficult situations is daunting, they master each of them in turn. Sade even manages to resist the pressure of bullies, and refuses to commit a crime because she remembers her father’s advice. Because neither child is perfect, the reader can identify with them, and ultimately they are reunited with their beloved father.