Now Is the Time for Running
by Williams, Michael

When soldiers attack their small village, Deo escapes with his older, mentally disabled brother, carrying a soccer ball filled with money, and after facing prejudice, poverty, and tragedy, it is in soccer that Deo finds hope.

<b>Michael Williams</b> is a writer of plays, musicals, operas, and novels, and is the Managing Director of Cape Town Opera in South Africa. He is the author of several books, including the highly praised young adult novels <i>Crocodile Burning</i> and <i>Now Is the Time for Running</i>. He has written operas for young people based on African mythology as well as the libretti for symphonic operas that have premiered around the world. He finds writing fiction to be the perfect antidote to the drama of keeping an opera company alive in Africa.

Deo, 14, is playing soccer with his friends in his Zimbabwe village when soldiers arrive, destroy everything, and kill his mother. Running for his life while caring for his older, mentally disabled brother, Innocent, Deo takes his homemade soccer ball with him as they flee across the border to South Africa. Told in the young teen's first-person, present-tense narrative, the survival adventure follows the brothers as they crawl beneath barbed wire, wade through the Limpopo River, run barefoot near dangerous wild animals, and find work picking tomatoes for a white farmer before seeking shelter in the rough townships outside Johannesburg and Cape Town, where they face grim xenophobia. Based on his interviews with Zimbabwean refugee boys on the Cape Town streets, Williams captures the refugees' anguish, and Deo's realistic relationship with his brother is heartbreaking. Along with the sorrow, though, is the detailed sports action, as Deo escapes through soccer, and the exciting game specifics climax when Deo kicks the winning goal in the 2010 Street Soccer World Cup final. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

A harrowing tale of modern Zimbabwe.

Soccer and his loving family got Deo, 15, through lean times in Zimbabwe. Now that Mugabe's soldiers have destroyed his village and killed most residents, the only family Deo has left is Innocent, the older, mentally disabled brother he's always looked after. When they join others fleeing to safety, Innocent's unpredictable behavior proves dangerous, yet also saves their lives. After a terrifying crossing of the Limpopo River and run through a lion-infested game preserve, they're rescued by a farmer and given paid work, food and shelter. South Africa is no safe haven for the refugees, however; local residents resent them. Leaving the farm only brings new dangers. Deo struggles to protect Innocent from a rising tide of xenophobia in which the newcomers are demonized by desperately poor South Africans who see them as a threat. Drugs offer an escape from the brutalities of violent crime and hatred, but there's another option: street soccer and a chance to compete in its international world cup. Originally published in South Africa, this 2009 novel is gripping, suspenseful and deeply compassionate.

Williams, a renowned dramatist, gives readers compelling characters and, in simple language, delivers a complicated story rooted-sadly and upliftingly-in very real events. (author's note, glossary) (Fiction. 12 & up)

Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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