Hope for Hanna, by Dee White

AIDS is a small word for a big sickness. It is more terrible than a crazy lion or a maama hyena with babies in her belly. HIV/AIDS kills many people in our village.

Hanna is an 11 year-old girl living in a village in Uganda. Her mother is very ill with AIDS and as oldest child, Hanna helps care for her three younger sisters. Her father is angry and there is little money for food, and none for medicine. As if life weren’t difficult enough, rebels invade the village regularly stealing older children to become soldiers. Ignorance and fear make outcasts of the sick and those who help them. But in the midst of the hardship there are also good people. There is Kunata, Hanna’s friend; Tenywa, an older village boy; and Ally and her father Steve. They help Hanna to maintain hope that she may one day be able to help improve life in her village, in her country. Most spreads include sketches from talented illustrator, Kylie Dunstan.

Life for most 11 year-olds in Australia is relatively easy. There may be challenges with friends and other choices but most Australian children have food and shelter. But life is seldom easy in many of the world’s poorer, war-torn countries. Illness and disease take their toll on already undernourished communities. War steals the children and makes them soldiers. Fear and ignorance make already difficult lives even more difficult. In Hope for Hanna, Dee White has taken very few words to paint a rich and detailed picture of life in a Ugandan village. Although there is plenty to be despondent about, it is the resilience and determination to bring change that shines through in the main character, Hanna. Hope for Hanna is told in the first person and brings the reader in close, to understand what it is to be Hanna. Strong support characters include her grandmother, her teacher and a new friend. Themes for discussion include tolerance, security, strength and hope. Recommended for upper primary readers.

Hope for Hanna, Dee White
Rigby Blueprints series Pearson Education 2008
ISBN: 9781741402025