Web of Lies

Let’s deal with the sequel to “The Other Side of Truth” now.

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Look at the two covers, what do they tell you about “Web of Lies”? Why did the author choose this title? If you were to choose a different title, which one would you opt for? If you were to choose an image for the cover of the novel, which one would you create and why?
Along with the theme of the difficulties faced to be granted asylum in Britain, what are the other themes of this novel? Do the two covers somehow hint at any of them?


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Read what some reviewers wrote and choose the comment you like best and support it at least with an example (leave your reply in the comment space below):

Few writers offer such humane insights.    Sunday Times

The tragedy of Damilola Taylor springs to mind… a compelling thriller.. all the more impressive for treating children seriously: as people who are faced with challenging moral decisions every day of their lives.    Books for Keeps (5 star review)

…fiction which, while not always comfortable to read, compels her readers to consider the sources of their own fears and prejudices.    Times Educational Supplement

Watching these children trying to stay good in a wicked world is nerve-wracking – yet at the same time, the book is funny and hugely touching.    Ireland on Sunday

If you browse the net there are a few interviews you can read of the author.  In one of them after being asked the question

“What advice would you give to young people who want to be writers?” she replied

“Read the world! Don’t confine yourself. Discover what extraordinary journeys can be made through ink on paper, including journeys into the mind and heart. Alert your senses to your own world around you. Observe the detail. Be curious, especially about people. Ask “Why?” Keep a notebook. Play with words. . . .”

What does this reveal about her as a writer?  If you could interview her about her writing, her life experience and “Web of Lies” what questions would you pose?

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The two siblings, Femi and Sade, are being confronted with problems that they would not have faced back home in Lagos.  What are they? Substantiate your answer with examples from the text.  These problems somehow question the assumed privileges most white westerners think they have over immigrants or over black people from any country in Africa.  What are they?  How are these assumptions subverted by the writer?

In her January 2002 Booklist Interview Beverley Naidoo stated: “Politics is our lives . . and school bullying is the same kind of power dynamics on a different scale”, what do you think she means by this? Do you agree? Why (not?)

Beverley Naidoo was born in South Africa in 1943 and grew up under apartheid. As a student, she began to question the apartheid regime and was later arrested for her actions as part of the resistance movement in South Africa. In 1965 she went into exile, going to England.  How do you think these personal experiences influenced the writing of this novel? Give at least one example.  Browse Beverley Naidoo website and find some other relevant information that you will share in class with your classmates.

Listen to her personal story, really revealing of the greatness of this writer’s.  She was in detention in Pretoria Prison with her brother, her going to England became a forced exile because her passport was taken away from her.  She refers to how “silence” (not mentioning the brutality of the infringement of human rights) was the norm when she was young.  How do these pieces of information cast light on the purport of this writer’s novels?

She mainly writes for adolescents why? She wrote about Apartheid, post-apartheid, different African countries (e.g. Nigeria, Kenya), why?

She mentions that her cousin’s son Neil Aggett  was killed by the police (though it was written that he had hanged himself), one of the few white people killed by the police in South-Africa.  He was a doctor who realized that Apartheid was a disease that could not be cured by medicine only (if you want to learn more about him you could read this interesting article published in the Guardian).  He decided to become active in his fight against apartheid and this jeopardized his life and at the same time turned him into an outcast in his family.  His political stance made him drift away from his family and he explained it beautifully in a letter to his mum.

Would you have the courage to drift away from your family to fight against injustice? What would you be willing to fight for?  What are the ideals you would never renounce? (Write a paragraph and record your voice and post your audio clip onto the padlet below.  You can use the application Spreaker if you wish, I have posted mine too).


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“Burn My Heart”  is the next book by Naidoo I would like you to read.  Watch the book trailer and see whether the novel can whet your appetite for further reading and most of all for further food for thought.


Look at the way the novel was turned into a theatrical performance:

You may feel the urge to know more about Apartheid in South Africa. Look at the posters there are in our special class (I bought them in South Africa at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg ). Next year we will investigate this topic and this is the reason why we will read two other novels by Beverley Naidoo.

I would like you now to focus on the possible activities you can create on “Web of Lies”. You can work individually or in pairs. You need to get organized because you are recommended to diversify the activities so that all of them are covered.

Create a Book Trailer (the one of “Burn My Heart” is just an example, you are free to choose among different options. You may want to write a script that somehow encapsulates the core theme of the book and act it out, as you saw above in the promotional film for “Burn My Heart”.  You can use different applications: Screencast-O-Matic, Adobe Spark, Animoto, VoiceThread) or a Book Review (You write a review and then you shoot a video showing the book and urging other adolescents to read the book. You could read an important short passage and mention why the book, in your opinion, should be read).

This is what a student wrote and it could help you:

This book shows a harsh reality for some children worldwide. While global cultures differ based on geography and customs, Ms. Naidoo has a way of making the story of two Nigerian refugees, Femi and Sade, aged 10 and 12, universal, if the reader makes the connection that many people today face the same problems of fleeing their homeland in hopes of a better life only to encounter a harsh welcome where they land. I would recommend this book as a read for teen-aged readers. It would be a good book for stimulating a discussion on global current events and what’s happening to displaced citizens. The story of Sade, Femi, and their family shows how humanity can respond to those in need when crises occur. It is one of those tragic stories that has a decent outcome.

Write the story outline of a possible sequel to the novel.

This is what a reader from Northern Ireland (Newtownabbey) wrote after finishing “Web of Lies”:
I’ve been wondering ever since I read ‘Web of Lies’ whether you’d be writing another in the series- I really, really hope you do… I even started inventing sequels to it in my head!

This is the blog that a student created and the following words from it made me think that it would be a great idea if you created a page of a blog dedicated to readers in which you start recording your response to “Web of Lies” and you can continue running it for the other books we will be reading together!

Some people will read these books, put them down, and never think of them again. But I was going to take things to the next step. I’m passing along Beverley Naidoo’s knowledge to the next person. Who know’s? Maybe you will be the next activist. You can do anything, if you put your mind to it.

Sade’s diary
You write a page of your diary and you read it out then the addressee replies. I want you to record your voice and to have the page of the diary scroll. This activity is meant for two people.
Write a page summarizing what will happen to Errol and to James
Write a page summarizing what will happen to Papa, Femi and Sade. Will they be allowed to stay in the UK or will their application as refugees be turned down? Ideally write two endings to the story and call them Ending 1 and Ending 2
• You are a journalist and you interview Sade: What is it like to be a refugee? What are the main differences between her life back home and her life in London? What are the things that baffle her about living in the UK?, etc. (This activity is meant for two students. Use the application Spreaker)
• You are Mama, your voice is heard both by Femi and Sade, they are both afraid of forgetting you. Your children were forced to move to Devon and stay with their uncle this to avoid Femi being attacked by Errol and to get away from the city that caused them trouble. The day before Femi and Sade go to school their dad decides to give them a letter Mama had written for them when she realized that things were becoming pretty dangerous and tense back in Lagos. What is the letter about? Write it out and read it out.
You are Sade, write a slam poem blurting out what you felt like when Errol and his friend cornered you at school and groped you, pressed his body on you.
You are Femi and you feel disappointed by James’ attitude. On the one hand you love the idea of being called “little brethren” and of having him protect you. You care for him and you feel sorry because you think he is in hospital because of you. You feel guilty. If it hadn’t been for you, Errol would not have stabbed him. On the other hand you do not understand how it is possible that he justifies Errol and that he tells the police Errol did not want to harm him, that everything happened by accident. The police releases him and Errol sets your flat alight, you lose everything and you are forced to move to Devon. You visit James in hospital with Sade and Papa and you feel confused. Write a poem in which there are these two contrasting feelings. Your poem is addressed to James.

One of the main themes in “Web of Lies” is bullying.  Femi joins a gang to avoid being bullied, but in the end he becomes a victim of Errol vicious self-interest.  Femi could have got killed when Errol told him to desptach a little parcel for him.  As a matter of fact Femi recalls to most British people a sad incident: the death of Damilola Taylor, whose death inspired the song Kidz by Plan B and the novel “Pigeon English” by Stephen Kelman.  Listen to the song “Kidz” (do NOT if you are sensitive to foul language) and write a song in which you denounce the evils of today’s society and another song in which you oppose the provocative portrayal of adolescents today with instances of the great things teenagers can do to contribute to a better life for everybody.

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