July 2008, Frances Lincoln
96 pages, Paperback
Ghana, tourists, tourist scams, one parent family, workaholic, historical site, fear, kidnapping, tissue needed, occasional moderate violence, some instances of peril,
Summary from Frances Lincoln
The holidays lie heavy on young Leonard Boameh. His schoolfriends live far away from his home town of Accra, his nana is no fun, and his dad - who's great - is away working most of the time. So Leonard decides to run away for a few hours, and when Nana isn't looking he takes the tro-tro bus to Elmina, a historic European fort built to imprison West African slaves shipped off to America. There are lots of rough kids begging there, and before Leonard knows what's happening, he is kidnapped by the meanest gang of all, who plan to use his angel-face to fleece the tourists. Leonard is now a slave, trying to escape from a living nightmare. Bernard Ashley's thought-provoking Ghanaian story, set in the sinister, poverty-driven underworld of gangland, leads to a taut, thrilling climax.
Leonard had the best intentions the day he left his family. He was bored so decided to seek excitement. Unfortunately the street children found Leonard to have the perfect qualifications for their 'job'. They don't buy or sell him, they just snatch him off the streets. Although I didn't know when the kidnapping was going to take place, I was constantly afraid for Leonard when he neared places suitable for it to happen. He's a sweet boy and doesn't understand why grown ups don't believe him when he asks for help.
The street boys aren't stupid, and take measures to prevent Leonard from running away. They keep a close eye on him as he performs his job, leaving him almost no opportunity to escape. I was so happy when he did escape - but that happiness was short-lived. The street boys are used to escapes happening, and since they know the area better than Leonard, they easily corner him. Help comes from an unexpected quarter, and the book ends with Leonard in safe hands. I think he'll always remember what happened to him, and will never get that bored again.
As well as getting the story from Leonard's point of view, his father's pov was included too. I felt this was important because Leonard doesn't necessarily feel his father is there enough or cares enough for him. He works long hours, staying away from home - both of which might suggest that he doesn't care about Leonard. The truth is the opposite. His love for Leonard had me near tears as he kept up the search for his son. The reaction of the authorities to the news was sadly predictable. Some don't care about missing children. Additionally the reader gets to learn a little bit about life in Ghana.
A great book for younger readers to become aware of what can happen to them if they runaway from home, for any reason.
I highly recommend you take a look at Bernard's website - so many of his books sound awesome! Some of his books that are catching my eye are: Your Guess is as Good as Mine, Revenge House, Smoke Screen, Down To the Wire, Ten Days to Zero. No Way to Go.