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The Heaven Shop

by Deborah Ellis

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1991099,871 (4.06)None
Binti was the child star of a popular radio program in Malawi. But now she is nothing special. Both parents dead, separated from her brother and sister, ostracised by the rest of the family and treated like a servant. Binti is just another AIDS orphan. Facing this challenge, Binti discovers she must look outside herself and find a new way to be special.… (more)

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My library book club chose this to read for October 2015. It is Young Adult fiction so it is an easy read but that doesn't mean it is easy to read (if you understand what I mean).

Binti is a young Malawian girl living with her father and her older sister and brother in Blantyre. Their mother died when Binti was quite young but the older sister, Junie, has been in charge of the household in addition to going to school. The father runs a coffin shop for which there is quite a need due to the many people dying of AIDS. Binti has a part on a radio show and she is very proud of this fact. When her father dies of AIDS complications everything that is familiar disappears. Junie and Binti go to live with an uncle who uses them as unpaid labour and the brother, Kwasi, goes off to another uncle for whom he also works. Fortunately, the children's grandmother, Gogo, is alive and she becomes the children's salvation.

The characters are fairly one-dimensional except for Binti. The uncles and aunts are greedy, grasping, ignorant people but the father and the grandmother are selfless and caring. Binti starts out as a rather stuck-up girl but she matures throughout the book. I suppose for a YA novel this kind of characterization is common but it made me downgrade my rating a bit even though I liked the setting and the message. ( )
  gypsysmom | Oct 19, 2015 |
The Heaven Shop by Deborah Ellis is a young adult fiction novel, which focuses on real life issues including discrimination, fear and AIDS. Set in Malawi, The Heaven Shop is a captivating story that explores the life of three siblings as they face many hardships in order to achieve freedom and acceptance.

The story starts off with a girl named Binti who once used to live a luxurious life as a voice actor on a radio show but when her father dies of AIDS, her and her siblings became just another group of AIDS orphans. Binti and her sister are separated from their brother and are forced to live in their relative’s home in which they are treated like lowly servants. As they struggle to survive, the three siblings develop new relationships and learn a lot about hope and staying positive.

Central around the theme of Aids, the heaven bookshop teaches you shocking realities around the world while teaching important life lessons. Ellis slowly educates readers on the issue of AIDs in Africa through the lives of Binti, Junie and Malawi. The discrimination and abuse which the characters faces due to the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDs is a direct reflection of the reality African children and young adults faces in confronting HIV and AIDS today. Through the treatment of the children by other characters, Ellis demonstrates how human ignorance can have a drastic impact on the lives of others and the victims of the disease. By revolving the story around the lives of the children affected by the impact of AIDs, Ellis allows readers to step into the shoes of the victim. This helps readers’ grasp a better understanding of the types of hardship African children must go through on a daily basis and the conflict they experiences. It also paints a real life depiction of the environment the children are exposed too and how the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDs influence the way people treat AID suffers. However, not all is grim in the book. In the mist of darkness, Ellis displays to us that there is still kindness and not all hope is lost. Through the character’s development, Ellis offers a solution to the issue.

In addition to the education of AIDs and HIV, the novel gives us hope that no matter how much cruelty there is in the world, there is still kindness. Despite having to face so many hardships, the characters in the novel try their best to overcome these, with the help of other kind and understanding characters. Binti, for example who lived a luxurious life and was well known in her town, was thrown into a place where she was hated. She overcomes this hate alongside her siblings and lives her very best in life. Through this, the reader is given hope that things will get better.

Overall I think The Heaven Shop is a fantastic book. Ellis effectively demonstrated the importance of our children, kindness and hope. It was an excellent read and I would recommend all young adults to give this book a try. ( )
  kaylanguyen | Jul 21, 2015 |
Binti's father is dying from AIDS, a disease that nobody in their town in Malawi dares name aloud. As Binti and her brother and sister slowly begin to understand what this means, they begin to realise too that not only is this what killed their mother, but that they could all be infected. But Binti's a fighter. She fought to become the child star in Malawi's most popular radio show and she's going to fight to overcome the fear and prejudice all around her. When the family are split up and sent to live with various scared and cruel relatives, Binti knows that it is up to her to reunite them. But her fight to do so means coming to a new understanding not only of herself, but of human nature and realising that people are not always as they seem. ( )
  KarenAJeff | May 14, 2014 |
13 year old Binti and her siblings are orphaned when their father dies of AIDS. Their mother had died earlier. Split up and sent to live with relatives all over Malawi, they are reunited through their grandmother and they revive their father's business of building and selling coffins.

The story is told by Binti, the youngest member of the family, the title derived from father’s business – building wooden coffins for all the villagers dying from AIDS. Her brother, Kwasi, draws birds in the coffins to signify flying to heaven. ( )
  stornelli | May 8, 2010 |
Review by Wendy Mason Geoghegan (Canadian Children’s Book News, Summer 2004 (Vol. 27, No. 3))
http://clcd.odyssi.com.login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/cgi-bin/member/search/f... ( )
  TammyReynolds | Oct 29, 2009 |
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"Your mother died of AIDS!"
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Binti was the child star of a popular radio program in Malawi. But now she is nothing special. Both parents dead, separated from her brother and sister, ostracised by the rest of the family and treated like a servant. Binti is just another AIDS orphan. Facing this challenge, Binti discovers she must look outside herself and find a new way to be special.

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