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Chanda's Secrets

Interest Age: 14+
Grade: 9+
Reading Age: 14+
Hardcover : 9781550378351, 200 pages, February 2004 , 7.25" x 5.0"
Paperback : 9781550378344, 200 pages, February 2004 , 7.25" x 5.0"
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554512133, 200 pages, March 2004
Rights sold: Korean, English, traditional Chinese, German, simplified Chinese, French, Portuguese


Chanda’s mother is not herself, her younger sister is acting out, and her best friend needs help. A powerful story set amid the African HIV/AIDS pandemic.

In this sensitive, swiftly paced story, readers will find echoes of To Kill a Mockingbird as Chanda, a 16-year-old, astonishingly perceptive girl living in the small city of Bonang in Africa, must confront the undercurrents of shame and stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.

Through his artful style and dramatic storytelling, Allan Stratton captures the enduring strength of loyalty, the profound impact of loss, and a fearlessness that is powered by the heart. Above all, it is a story about living with truth.

Proceeds from the sale of this book will be used to support organizations working to better the lives of Africans living with HIV/AIDS.


  • Joint winner, Independent Publisher Book Award 2005
  • Joint winner, The Year’s Best List, Resource Links 2005
  • Joint winner, Editor’s Choice, Booklist 2005
  • Winner, Michael L. Printz Honor Book for Excellence in YA Literature, ALA 2005
  • Commended, Children’s Book Award Notable Book 2005
  • Joint winner, Top Ten Fiction Titles, Pennsylvania School Librarians Association 2005
  • Joint winner, YA Top Forty Fiction Titles, Pennsylvania School Librarians Association 2020
  • Winner, Willow Award, Saskatchewan Library Association 2005
  • Joint winner, New York Public Library’s Books for the Teen Age, starred citation 2005
  • Winner, Best Book for Older Readers, Children’s Africana Book Awards 2005
  • Joint winner, Skipping Stones Honor Award 2005
  • Joint winner, Our Choice List, starred selection, Canadian Children’s Book Centre 2020
  • Commended, White Pine Award Honour Book, Ontario Library Association 2005
  • Joint winner, Book of the Year Award, Foreword Reviews 2005
  • Joint winner, Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults List, ALA 2005
  • Joint winner, Best Books for Young Adults List, ALA 2005
  • Joint winner, Top 10 Black History Books for Youth, Booklist 2005
  • Joint winner, Best Books for Young Adults, School Library Journal 2005
  • Winner, Young Adult Canadian Book Award, Canadian Library Association 2005
  • Joint winner, Notable Books for a Global Society Award 2005


Chanda’s Secrets is a novel with the lilt of Africa in its language and the urgency of adolescent struggle in every paragraph. When AIDS isn't just a faraway acronym, but a sinister, invisible poison that threatens to steal your family, creep into your nightmares, break your heart and darken your future, how do you learn to grow up with love and courage? That’s one of Chanda’s secrets. 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 and still battling to make sense of their lives.”

- Stephen Lewis, UN special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa

“The statistics of the millions infected with HIV/AIDS in southern Africa find a human face in this gripping story of one teenager . . . 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 . . . 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.”

- 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. Strong language and frank description are appropriate to the subject matter.”

- School Library Journal, *starred review

“A finely nuanced, beautifully articulated polemic, with a sparkling main character.”

- The Globe and Mail

“The strong, respectful writing makes this crucial and broadly relevant story unfailingly human.”

- Kirkus Reviews

“Compassionate, heart-breaking story . . . This is the best sort of 'issue' novel. It is immensely readable. It alerts its adolescent audience to a real and pressing matter, and it inspires compassion-perhaps even activism-by putting a precise, human face on sorrow.”

- Toronto Star

“Well-paced, robust prose and well-cadenced dialogue . . . provide a gripping and heart-wrenching reading experience designed for mature readers . . . Highly recommended.”

- CM Reviews

“This is a searing book on an important subject . . . Stratton neither overplays nor underplays the tragedy or the hope here, and there is not a maudlin moment in the novel, just genuine grief and understanding as the epidemic assumes some of its many human faces.” 

- The Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books

“The first step to solving the AIDS crisis in Africa is to raise awareness about the disease. This novel begins to do just that for a younger generation . . . It is not only an important book, it is also a good story.”


“Courage, honesty and commitment to oneself are qualities that are fostered in this fantastic text.”

- Resource Links

“A book of great hope that features one of the most inspiring heroines to be found in teen literature today.”

- Holly Koelling, Michael L. Printz Award Committee Member

“Deserves a five-star rating.”

- Grown Up’s Guide to the Best Children’s Books, 08/08/15