Sigrid Heuck

Emails from Africa

Sigrid Heuck
Stuttgart: Thienemann, 2007
143 S.
ISBN 978-3522179508

Eleven-year-old Lilli's father is an entomologist. Precisely when Lilli is about to start high school, he is asked to participate in a research project in the Gambia (West Africa) on blackflies that cause a serious disease in the region: river blindness. Her father, Hanno, promises to send regular emails and this is the start of a lively correspondence. Lilli tells of her everyday life at her new school while Hanno describes his experiences in faraway West Africa.

As soon as he arrives, Hanno hears that his colleague, Dr Ana Kumani has not returned from an inland journey. He immediately sets off and finds her: she was kidnapped by the inhabitants of a village to dispense medication against river blindness which they cannot afford. Along the way, Hanno meets Malika who has already lost three children to river blindness and is desperately fighting for her daughter, Almesi, who is already infected. Lilli's father decides to help her. Hanno spends the rest of his time in the Gambia doing research on the blackfly along with Ana Kumani in the laboratory and the villages. When Hanno returns to Germany shortly before Christmas, accompanied by his colleague, they have found neither a vaccine nor a way of controlling the flies. But they have become so close that they are thinking of marrying.

Lilli also has much to tell her father. She has become friends with Aki, whose father comes from Mali. Because of his dark skin colour, he is rejected by his class. But when, inspired by Hanno's reports, they do a presentation together in class about river blindness, their classmates decide to help. They all collect bits of fabric with which Malika makes dolls for tourists in the Gambia to collect enough money for Almesi’s treatment.

Sigrid Heuck: E-Mails aus Afrika
(Emails from Africa)

This youth novel combines two commendable concerns: it firstly deals with the terrible consequences of a disease hardly known in Europe and secondly, it appeals to the goodwill of German readers – with the intention of providing exciting reading material for ten to twelve year olds.More ...