‘The truth is the truth. How can I write what’s untrue?’
The Carnegie Medal is a prestigious literary award that is given out annually to the best children’s book of the year. The Other Side of Truth joins such luminaries as Watership Down, Northern Lights and Tom’s Midnight Garden as being a former winner and while it isn’t quite up there with those classics it is still a powerful and compelling work.
Siblings Sade and Femi are smuggled into England from their native Nigeria after their mother is shot in order to preserve their safety. Their journalist father must stay behind to continue to tell the real story of the horror that is taking place in his home country.
Beverly Naidoo is an author I know very little about but her fourth novel The Other Side of Truth portrays a writer with bags of heart and a searing moral compass. While it is easy to be on the right side of history when discussing refugees and war criminals, it isn’t straightforward to do this and still come across as being authentic, furious even. Naidoo manages this whilst simultaneously writing a book that is accessible for children. Despite that praise, it must be said that Naidoo’s novel does come across as a book for children. While Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, a book with similar lofty subject matter, could be enjoyed by anyone, it is difficult to see an adult choosing to read The Other Side of Truth unless they have to (as I did).
This is a book that is Important (with a capital I) but this is sometimes at the expense of the overall enjoyment of the experience of reading it. A little levity can go a long way and The Other Side of Truth would certainly have benefited from a little humour. There are also seemingly important story threads that don’t really go anywhere but I guess that is the life of a teenager. Things that seem like the end of the world one day are forgotten the next. Apart from the time I shit myself playing football. That is still incredibly traumatic even now…