BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Little Family by Ishmael Beah [in Booklist]

Ishmael Beah, who recounted his brutal experiences as a child soldier in Sierra Leone in his bestselling memoir, A Long Way Gone (2007), understands all too well the horrors that can befall children. Here his fictional “little family” numbers five, the two oldest still teens. Among them, they understand 15 languages and three dialects, but they never speak about their lives before they became family. Even Beah treads lightly, with minimum reveals.

Bookish Elimane lost everything and everyone to fire; Khoudiemata escaped repeated sexual abuse; young Namsa remains plagued by screaming night terrors. Little is known about the two in-between boys, Nedevui and Kpindi, except a seeming contentment with their rambunctious togetherness. Together, the fivesome lives in an abandoned airplane at the edge of the chaos of a small town, Foloiya, where well-planned hustling and impeccably timed thieving keep the children alive.

When Elimane saves a businessman who falls into the harbor, he’s rewarded with lucrative opportunities, but the price for cooperation keeps climbing. Meanwhile, a rare hair-salon visit washes away Khoudiemata’s invisibility, and suddenly, her beauty draws attention both coveted and feared; she is torn between what she knows and what she wants, and what she chooses will have life-altering consequences.

Unflinching and unadorned, Beah’s novel provides an indelible portrait of desperate survival.

YA/Mature Readers: The struggles of the youthful main cast will undoubtedly resonate with older teens.

Review: “Fiction,” Booklist, March 15, 2020

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2020



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