Now Is the Time for Running
Booklist Reviews 2011 September #2
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.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Spring
The brutal massacre by government soldiers of his small Zimbabwe village sends fourteen-year-old soccer devotee Deo and his mentally disabled older brother, Innocent, fleeing to South Africa. There Deo is invited to join the soccer team that will represent South Africa in the Street Soccer World Cup. This incisive portrait of sub-Saharan Africa is a compelling mix of suspense, sports, and social injustice. Copyright 2012 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2011 #4
The brutal massacre by government soldiers of his small Zimbabwe village sends fourteen-year-old soccer devotee Deo and his mentally disabled older brother, Innocent, fleeing to a refugee camp in South Africa. The brothers find underpaid work at a farm before eventually leaving for the promise of the big city of Johannesburg. Once there, however, they are forced to live on the streets, and when xenophobic violence breaks out, it claims the life of Innocent. Heartbroken, Deo moves on to Cape Town, where he finally catches a break: he is invited to join the soccer team that will represent South Africa in the Street Soccer World Cup. Williams skillfully draws the plight of these refugee brothers with both suspense and sympathy, and readers cannot help but root for them in their quest to rebuild their broken lives. It's uplifting that Deo is able to resurrect his passion for soccer as a means to better his life, while sports as a means to unify a divided South Africa recalls the movie Invictus and evokes similar emotions. Williams joins Beverly Naidoo and Allan Stratton with this incisive portrait of sub-Saharan Africa, a compelling mix of suspense, sports, and social injustice. jonathan hunt Copyright 2011 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
PW Reviews 2011 May #2
South African writer Williams (The Genuine Half-Moon Kid) delves deeply into the oppression, poverty, and xenophobia that plague so many nations in Africa in this gut-wrenching story of an outcast, soccer-loving teen from Zimbabwe. When 14-year-old Deo's village is ravaged by soldiers, he must flee with his older brother, Innocent, who suffered brain damage at birth, which has left him childlike and sometimes unmanageable. The obstacles the boys must overcome—traveling with no shoes and little money, confronting a hungry lion in a wild game reserve, and repeatedly withstanding prejudice and mistreatment as unwanted refugees—move the story along briskly, while its genuine and relatable characters keep it grounded. There is plenty of material to captivate readers: fast-paced soccer matches every bit as tough as the players; the determination of Deo and his fellow refugees to survive unthinkably harsh conditions; and raw depictions of violence ("The fear eats at us, burns us.... Nobody knows where the men with sticks and axes will be"). But it's the tender relationship between Deo and Innocent, along with some heartbreaking twists of fate, that will endure in readers' minds. Ages 12–up. (July)[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC