A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Diamond Boy by South African author Michael Williams, is a harrowing story of a teen whose life is turned upside-down in pursuit of wealth. Its historical backdrop is the Zimbabwean government's takeover of the Marange diamond mines in 2008. Casual, random violence is presented sparingly but is still horrific. Emotional trauma runs deep, both in the teen protagonist and everyone around him. Sexual violence is hinted at but not explicitly laid bare. Strong language includes "f--k" and "s--tty." The story is loosely tied to author Michael Williams' earlier novel, Now Is the Time for Running, but readers don't need to be familiar with that book to appreciate this one.
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What's the story?
Patson Moyo, 15, reluctantly heads to Marange with his poor schoolteacher father; his selfish stepmother, Sylvia; and his young sister, Grace. Sylvia promises "diamonds for everyone" at her brother's home, but then she joins her family in comfort, and Patson's family is relegated to a tobacco shed. With the local school closed, both Patson and his father head to the mines. Patson is soon entranced by the promise of diamonds, scheming to buy his family's freedom with help from fellow child miners. Before they can cash out, the army descends on the mines with guns blazing. Patson's dream disintegrates, Grace disappears, and Patson scrambles to save himself and his sister with the help of an unlikely protector.
Is it any good?
DIAMOND BOY pulls readers on an emotional, illuminating journey into a dark chapter of Zimbabwean history that remains unfinished. South African author Michael Williams' challenging story may be a bit much for less mature readers: The violence and uncertainty of the world he describes is deeply disturbing, but the sensitive portrayal of the Moyo family keeps it from being overwhelming.
The takeaway is comforting and hopeful, encouraging kids to wrestle with big questions about greed, generosity, moral corruption, courage, family, and risks and rewards. Patient readers will forgive the somewhat jumbled final stretch.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence and brutality of the story. Does it affect you the same way as violence in movies, or does this seem different? Do you think the story dwells too much on violence, or do you think it shields you from the worst of it?
How does this compare with other refugee stories you've read?
Parents may want to help children learn more about conflict diamonds (also known as blood diamonds) and the use of child slave labor.
- Author: Michael Williams
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
- Publication date: December 2, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 17
- Number of pages: 400
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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