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She loves maths and collecting stones, which she keeps in a bucket under her bed. She also has magical powers: she can communicate with dogs.

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Along with her two friends — pampered Bheki, and Four Eyes, a reformed member of the Spoilers gang led by Rotten Nellie — Nolitye puts the powers of the stone to good use. For the first time the threesome can stand up to the Spoilers, Nolitye can save the life of Rex, the leader of a pack of talking township mutts, and dare to look scary MaMtonga — with her living brown-and-green snake necklace — in the eye. But soon Nolitye finds out that the purplish-blue magic stone is one of five needed to put right things that started to go wrong the day her father died in a mining accident when she was five years old.

Or so she was told by her mother Sello Duiker who died in , immediately and refreshingly places itself in the second category.

The Hidden Star by K. Sello Duiker

It has no interest in translating itself or its humanity for an outside gaze. Along the way, she is thrust into a vast supernatural struggle among entities that roam the late-night streets of Phola, some of whom have been snatching up children. Nolitye gathers a crew around her, including her best friend, Bheki, and Four Eyes, who was initially a reluctant member of the local gang of bullies, the Spoilers.

Amid the gradual gathering of supernatural mayhem, daily life in Phola trudges on: The kids go to school, deal with their families, navigate various class distinctions, hang out with street dogs who have their own internal strife to deal with, in a delightful subplot and stand up to the Spoilers, led by Rotten Nellie. This last bit weaves in nicely with the larger story, though it also relies on some unnecessary weight-based slapstick.

THE HIDDEN STAR by K. Sello Duiker | Kirkus Reviews

The magic reveals itself gradually, and it is deeply entwined with the vivid world Duiker has created. From the beginning, we find out that kids in Phola can understand and talk to the local street dogs.


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The plot sometimes seems to amble, but not in an aimless way. While it has its own rhythm and cadence, it never stalls out or drags, just slides along toward its finale as the mystery unravels amid daily life in the townships.


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Here is the book as old friend, not cheesy tour guide, and so it shows us the old men on their stoops, the early morning exodus of workers to Soweto, the quiet, sometimes contentious way a neighborhood collectively mourns its lost children and holds tight to the ones it has left. The sky is awash with a deep red color A cloud of smoke hangs above Phola, but it is not thick enough to blot out the moon that is climbing up behind the shanties. Duiker has created a vibrant cityscape populated by living, breathing, multifaceted human beings who seem a world away from the faceless Hollywood stock characters we see so often in depictions of African poverty.

Sure, magic ripples just below the surface of these moonlit streets, but first and foremost we learn about life in this neighborhood, the loves and losses and labors of its residents. It is neither idealized haven nor melodramatic hellscape, but something much more alive.

Touhou 16 東方天空璋 ~ Hidden Star in Four Seasons - Lunatic 1cc (No-Release)