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Chanda's Secrets [Paperback]

Allan Stratton
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 6 2004

An unforgettable novel about family, loyalty and survival in sub-Saharan Africa -- now a major motion picture.

Chanda's Secrets was first published in 2004 to extraordinary international acclaim. It won the Michael L. Printz Honor Book for Excellence in YA Literature, was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults selection and, in France, was a finalist for the Prix Sorcières. It has now been made into a major motion picture, under the name Life, Above All. The film received a 10-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival and was honored with the prestigious Prix Francois Chalais. To coincide with the film's North American release by Sony Classics, the cover of this new reprint features a poignant still from the movie.

"No-one can read Chanda's Secrets and remain untouched."
-- Stephen Lewis, former UN special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa and current chair of the board of the Stephen Lewis Foundation and co-director of AIDS-Free World

"The message about overcoming ignorance and shame and confronting the facts is ever-present, but the tense story and the realistic characters . . . will keep kids reading and break the silence about the tragedy."
-- Booklist (starred review)

"Smart and determined, Chanda is a character whom readers come to care for and believe in, in spite of her almost impossible situation. The details of sub-Saharan African life are convincing and smoothly woven into this moving story of poverty and courage, but the real insight for readers will be the appalling treatment of the AIDS victims."
-- School library Journal (starred review)

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From School Library Journal

Grade 8 Up–Chanda, 16, remembers the good times, when she lived with both parents on a cattle post in sub-Saharan Africa and even later on when her family moved to Bonang. Her family's troubles began after her father was killed in the diamond mines. Her first stepfather abused her; the second died of a stroke; the third is a drunken philanderer. Although Chanda lives in a world in which illness and death have become commonplace, it is not one in which AIDS can be mentioned. The horror and desperation of families facing this disease is brought home when her latest stepfather's sister dumps the dying man in front of their shantytown house. Before Chanda can get help from the hospital caseworker, he disappears and the wagon that brought him is burned. Her mother leaves to visit her family on the cattle post and Chanda is forced to give up her dream of further education to care for her younger sister and brother. Slowly she comes to realize that her mother has AIDS, and that she might be infected herself. But Chanda's education serves her well as she faces the disease head-on. In a sad but satisfying ending, she rescues her mother so that she can die at home and she and her siblings get themselves tested. Smart and determined, Chanda is a character whom readers come to care for and believe in, in spite of her almost impossible situation. The details of sub-Saharan African life are convincing and smoothly woven into this moving story of poverty and courage, but the real insight for readers will be the appalling treatment of the AIDS victims. Strong language and frank description are appropriate to the subject matter.–Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gr. 9-12. The statistics of the millions infected with HIV/AIDS in southern Africa find a human face in this gripping story of one teenager, Chanda Kabele, who sees the disease threaten her family and community. Far from case history, Chanda's immediate, first-person, present-tense narrative is neither sentimental nor graphic as it brings close the personal struggle with all its pain and loss, shame and guilt. Chanda's stepfather and baby stepbrother died of the disease. Now Mama may have it. No one will talk about the cause. Is Chandra infected? Her best friend, driven to prostitution, does get AIDS, which is dormant. Should Chanda take her in? Stratton, who has lived and worked in southern Africa, creates an authentic sense of the community in town and in the bush, including the poverty, overburdened hospitals, struggling schools, and packed cemeteries. The message about overcoming ignorance and shame and confronting the facts is ever present, but the tense story and the realistic characters--caring, mean, funny, angry, kind, and cruel--will keep kids reading and break the silence about the tragedy. Proceeds from sales go to fighting AIDS. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dreams, dreams, dreams... April 8 2007
"Chanda's Secrets" is perhaps one of the most inspirational novels I have had the pleasure of reading in my entire (short) life.

Allan Stratton takes an incredibly important and real topic and portrays it in such a way that is impossible not to fall completely head first into. You can feel Chanda's emotions; her utter heartbreak and yearning and at the same time get an un-biased, real understanding of such a large epidemic. Important lessons and notions are taught in this heartbreaking and powerful novel. I recommend it to anyone.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely Powerful April 19 2004
Sixteen-year-old Chanda Kabelo is a true hero. She puts her family and friendship first above herself and what the "neighbors" think. Allan Stratton's story of Chanda's family and community draws a vivid picture of what the AID's epidemic is doing to Africa. Extremely powerful, don't miss it!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.8 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Don't Ever Let Them See You Crying" Dec 22 2005
By Jon Linden - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In a touching and heart rending story, Mr. Stratton has captured one of the anomalies of life on this planet at this point in time. "Chanda's Secret" deals with the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa. While AIDS is significant enough in the United States it is truly an epidemic in parts of Africa, where up to 3 out of every 4 people have AIDS. Stratton's book deals with the subject most artistically.

The biggest anomaly about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa is that even though it is hugely prevalent, it is a huge stigma to have the disease. It is not only a stigma for the patient, but for the patient's entire family. Many would rather go off and die or commit suicide to spare their families from living with the shame of knowing they were an "AIDS Family."

In this book, the reality of the disease is portrayed through the eyes of a young girl in Africa. She has to deal with most difficult life conditions, but then on top of all that, AIDS strikes at her house. The story tells most tenderly and appropriately about the trials and tribulations of her dilemma and what could be done if only people were willing to face things straight on, rather than hiding from the reality.

The book is extraordinarily well written. It is recommended for all readers between 12 and 112 for a close look at the HIV/AIDS dilemma in Africa. Stratton shows true tenderness and care when he describes the reality, yet manages to get that reality across in rather stark imagery. It is well worth the time to read.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Misery loves company" Sept. 4 2006
By Steve A. - Published on
Chanda's Secret is about a 16-year-old girl named Chanda Kabelo who is growing up in Africa. She loves school and is very smart. She would like to win a scholarship one day, but as most of us know one of the biggest problems in Africa is how to deal with aids. Many people in Africa have aids and so do the many people around Chanda, not only friends but family too.

Allan Stratton captures the meaning of a young girl growing up in Africa trying to help her family in the best way she knows how. She tries to make her family proud and at the same time help her mother out as much as she can. She fights to be the best she can be and lives each day with more questions and answers.

I would recommend this meaningful book to anyone going into high school or older. This book is a very good example of what a young teenager does to help everyone before herself, no matter what rumors are going around.
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding the AIDS crisis in Africa Jan. 6 2009
By Amazon Customer - Published on
I know that the recommended grade level is 9-12, but I would only use it for very mature 11th and 12th graders. There is lots of sexual content; Chanda's mother has several partners through her life, Chanda is molested, and there are instances of prostitution.

With that being said, this book will explain the problems of dealing with the treatment of AIDS in Africa. There is no communication about the disease, no one wants to be seen going into the clinic to be tested for it, anything. It really opened my eyes to the problems these people have to face everyday, horrific to say the least.

One of the reviews on the back of the book sums up my feelings "This powerful story hits home with its harsh truths, its pain, and its hard-won hopefulness. No-One can read Chanda's Secrets and remain untouched by the young people who are caught in the AIDS pandemic" (Written by Stephen Lewis, a worker for the UN).

I gave it 5 stars because I learned so much about AIDS, and I became emotionally attached to Chanda. I wanted her to have a good life, and for something to go right for her. And as we all know, making a connection with a character is what keeps people reading!

Just keep in mind that because of the adult content, young readers need to be mature, and culturally aware.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sad June 10 2008
By Peaches - Published on
Great book for a teen, I brought this book for my daughter and she loved it. There is a second novel titled "Chanda's War" that I am going to order for her.
5.0 out of 5 stars Harrowing but Wonderful Dec 31 2009
By Lauren G - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Sixteen year old Chanda lives in a small village in Africa. When her mother turns ill and vanishes to retrieve treatment, Chanda's in charge of her two younger siblings as well as best friend who might have contracted AIDS. She carefully balances providing an honorable life for her loved ones with standing up for what she believes in, regardless of what others think. The book was an extremely powerful read - dark and deep - that I definitely enjoyed. Chanda is a great character for young adults to read about. She's determined, responsible and incredibly aware.
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