The snow angel by Lauren St John
Zephyr, 2017. ISBN 9781786695895
(Age: 12+) Recommended. Orphans. Poverty. Family. Miracles. Friendship. Overcoming difficulty. Resilience. The snow angel; is a wonderful, magical mix of African culture, sadness, dreams, grief, resilience and the awful sobering realities of poverty and homelessness - but despite this sad litany of ideas, it is filled with bright moments of love and optimism. This is both a fantasy tale with a light dusting of imagined mystery and a sobering expose of the reality of modern Africa. The central character, Makena, experiences the highs of living out her dreams within a loving family and then the horrors that no child should ever have to experience, after tragic circumstances swamp her life. Woven into this tragedy is the vision of the 'snow angel' - a magical illusion that appears and silently offers hope. Makena also meets an amazing friend and a rescuer that are just what she needs. Even though there are incredibly bleak and heart-breaking aspects to this story, it is ultimately a story of hope for Makena. (But a mature reader will also realise that there are many unnamed characters in the story that will not experience this same hopeful ending.)
Lauren St John has written this book with understanding of the Kenyan setting that comes from her own experience of life in Africa as a child. She also peppers lightly the telling of this dramatic tale with some profound quotes and pearls of wisdom, as well as a glimpse of how those in poverty can retain joy in their lives, despite the hardships they face. There are some chronology leaps as the story unfolds that may confuse some young readers initially, but the story is compelling and worth promoting.