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Secrets in the Fire

Secrets in the Fire

Interest Age: 9–12
Grade: 4–7
Paperback : 9781550378009, 176 pages, September 2003 , 7.44" x 4.98"


It is the wise old woman of the village who teaches young Sofia about the secrets in the fire. Within the flames hide all things past and all things yet to be. But not even old Muazena can see the horrors the fire holds for Sofia and her family—not the murderous bandits who drive them from their home, and not the landmine that takes Sofia’s legs.

In her long journey toward recovery, Sofia must still deal with growing up. Along the way, she discovers friends, and foes, in places she’d never expected. Through it all, Sofia draws on a strength she never knew she had, a fire of her own that’s been a secret all along.

In beautifully spare, unsentimental language, Henning Mankell’s stunning novel puts a very human face on the suffering in Africa.


“Henning Mankell, the renowned Swedish mystery writer, lives part of the time in Mozambique, and writes, therefore, of what he knows. Indeed, he knows Sofia, and it is his capacity to convey the indomitable sprit that carries her through loss and grief, through seemingly endless hospitalization and rehabilitation back to her village, that makes this book, as well as Sofia, so worthy of our attention.” —The Globe and Mail

“A moving, unforgettable, inspiring book. Highly recommended.”—Hi-Rise

“... puts a human face on a tragic issue. Sofia’s incredible spirit in the face of brutality is an inspiration to all of us working for peace. An important read for anyone who cares about people and the global landmine crisis.”—Heather Mills McCartney

“... will grab readers with the truth of one child's terror and courage.”—Book Links, *starred review

“One of the first books to dramatize the global landmine crisis for children, this docu-drama will grab readers with the truth of one child’s terror and courage.”—Booklist, *starred review

“... an excellent resource to use in an elementary classroom discussion on current events, as part of a social studies lesson, or as a class read-aloud.”—Resource Links

“A hard-hitting, eye-opening novel that brings readers face-to-face with the horrors of war ... Mankell’s language and style are spare, but elicit a deeply emotional response ...”—School Library Journal, *starred review

“[A] powerful novel ... Young readers will be drawn to this story because of the vivid picture it creates ... this book presents the stark reality of what life can be like for young people growing up in a [war torn] country ... a book that deserves a place on library shelves ... Recommended.”—CM Reviews

“... It speaks more openly, however, to the landmine issue, and its direct statements sometimes undercut horrific details simple enough for middle school students to understand and compelling enough to hold a high school student’s attention.”—VOYA

“lyrical and moving.”—Language Arts