The astounding story of one girl’s journey from war victim to UNICEF Special Representative. As a child in a small rural village in Sierra Leone, Mariatu Kamara lived peacefully surrounded by family and friends. Rumors of rebel attacks were no more than a distant worry. But when 12-year-old Mariatu set out for a neighboring village, she never arrived. Heavily armed rebel soldiers, many no older than children themselves, attacked and tortured Mariatu. During this brutal act of senseless violence they cut off both her hands. Stumbling through the countryside, Mariatu miraculously survived. The sweet taste of a mango, her first food after the attack, reaffirmed her desire to live, but the challenge of clutching the fruit in her bloodied arms reinforced the grim new reality that stood before her. With no parents or living adult to support her and living in a refugee camp, she turned to begging in the streets of Freetown. In this gripping and heartbreaking true story, Mariatu shares with readers the details of the brutal attack, its aftermath and her eventual arrival in Toronto. There she began to pull together the pieces of her broken life with courage, astonishing resilience and hope.


  • Joint winner, Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, YALSA 2009
  • Joint winner, CBC’s Young Canada Reads 2009
  • Joint winner, White Ravens Collection, International Youth Library, Munich 2009
  • Joint winner, Best Books for Kids & Teens, starred selection, Canadian Children’s Book Centre 2009
  • Runner-up, Nautilus Book Awards, Silver 2009
  • Joint winner, Tayshas High School Reading List 2009
  • Joint winner, IBBY Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities 2009
  • Joint winner, National Parenting Publications Award 2009
  • Runner-up, Book of the Year, Silver, Foreword Reviews 2009
  • Joint winner, Next Generation Indie Book Award 2009


“An honest and true story told without glamour or artifice. ”

- Africa Access Review, 09/12/14

“Honest, raw and powerful. ”

- School Library Journal, *starred review, 11/08

“Recommended for older teens, but adults won’t be able to put the book down either. ”

- Foreword Reviews, 01/09

“Mariatu’s indomitable spirit will resonate most with teens. ”

- VOYA, 02/09

“She may not have hands but she does have a voice—and it is a powerful one that deserves our attention. ”

- Professionally Speaking, 09/09

“Told simply and accessibly, Mariatu Kamara’s story will intrigue, inform and, in places, shock teen readers . . . A remarkable book. ”

- Canadian Children's Book News, 08/09

“It is a testament to human will to overcome adversity. ”

- Resource Links, 12/08

“Its brilliance lies in simultaneously revealing the shocking brutality of war and the immense will and courage of youth to rise up for justice. ” 

- WOW Reviews, 07/11

“A powerful commentary on one of the many costs of wars. An essential purchase. ”

- Kirkus, *starred review, 10/08

“Told with equal measures of compassion and detachment that allows the reader to be both shocked and locked in. It’s good, really good. Highly recommended. ”

- CM Reviews, 11/08

“Will unsettle readers—and then inspire them. ”

- Publishers Weekly, *starred review, 11/17/08