In this heartwarming tale, readers take a trip to the refugee camps of Tanzania to see how play can transform fear, conflict, and distrust into empathy, tolerance, and teamwork.
Expressions in Kirundi, the national language of Burundi, are sprinkled throughout the book, as readers are introduced to young Deo Rukundo and his family, fleeing the illustrated shadows of men with torches who have come to burn down their home. Deo reaches the Lukole refugee camp in northwest Tanzania, where, without his parents, he must begin to rebuild his life. The banana-leaf balls his father taught him to make provide some solace until a young rival, Remy, steals the twine he needs. Deo isolates himself until he hears the commotion of a soccer game beginning. Serendipitously, the coach places Deo and Remy on the same side. The miraculous game-winning assist goes from Deo to Remy, and a new friendship begins. Years later, when the camp closes, readers learn that Deo has returned home to become a coach solving conflict through play; they meet his inspiration, Benjamin Nzobonakira, in the backmatter, which contains further information about play-based conflict-resolution initiatives around the world. Adults looking for context to help readers understand how Burundi was thrown into chaos and its current, continued instability will have to look elsewhere.
This outside-looking-in depiction of the power of play to bridge new relationships in Burundi serves as a universal lesson that all readers can draw on. (Picture book. 7-11)