Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan (2013)

goldenFull of heart and steeped in Tanzanian culture, this book sheds light on a dark and fascinating human rights issue.

Recommended grade level: 7-11

Pages: 384 (for ISBN 9780399161124)

Genre(s) and keywords and keywords: realistic fiction, adventure, international, diverse, Africa (Tanzania)

Tone/Style: resolute

Pace: moderate (it starts out faster, then slows down a bit in the second half)

Topics: albinism, Tanzania, Africa, poaching, wood carving, escape,

Themes: belonging, finding self-worth, national identity, equality, other-ness

Summary: Thirteen-year-old Habo has always been different— light eyes, yellow hair and white skin. Not the good brown skin his family has and not the white skin of tourists. Habo is strange and alone. His father, unable to accept Habo, abandons the family; his mother can scarcely look at him. His brothers are cruel and the other children never invite him to play. Only his sister Asu loves him well. But even Asu can’t take the sting away when the family is forced from their small Tanzanian village, and Habo knows he is to blame.

Seeking refuge in Mwanza, Habo and his family journey across the Serengeti. His aunt is glad to open her home until she sees Habo for the first time, and then she is only afraid. Suddenly, Habo has a new word for himself: Albino. But they hunt albinos in Mwanza because albino body parts are thought to bring good luck. And soon Habo is being hunted by a fearsome man with a machete. To keep his life, Habo must run, not knowing if he can ever stop.

Affectingly written, Golden Boy is a haunting and wrenching story of survival and hope. (Source)

Who will like this book?: This is a complex title, weaving together action and contemplation. Habo’s experience as an albino boy in Tanzania is a world away from life in the Western world, but his desire for belonging and his struggles with being different (both in finding self-worth and in dealing with those who would put him down) are universal. Readers who want to experience something different will enjoy this book, as it is both different and familiar in all the right ways.

Who won’t like this book?: Though there’s excitement to be had, it might not be enough to appeal to high-octane action fans. Some readers may have a hard time with the unfamiliar setting, but I would argue that these are the kids who really need to read this book, so it may be worth the fight to get it into their hands.

Other comments: Kids aren’t likely to pick this up themselves, but it’s worth hand-selling.


Readalikes: A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park is a popular title about human rights issues facing young people in Africa. Ghost Boy by Iain Lawrence is another book about an albino boy.


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