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Secrets in the Fire: Secrets in the Fire

Yr 8 English Text. At the heart of this book is the horror that so many have faced because of the millions of landmines that have been placed around the world. The book is set in Mozambique and is based upon the true story of Sophia Alface

Hero rats

Genre theme of Book

  • Amputees
  • family
  • war
  • friendship
  • survival

What have you learned about courage and determination from Secrets in the Fire?



At the heart of this book is the horror that so many have faced (especially children) because of the millions of landmines that have been placed around the world. The book is set in Mozambique and is based upon the true story of Sophia Alface. The book is clearly written for children because the sentence structure is so elementary. A good book to open your eyes to a huge problem in the world.

Landmine statistics

AUSAID Promoting landmine destruction

Australia is a leading advocate and supporter of international mine action, working with partner governments in 17 countries, including the most contaminated in the Asia Pacific region, as well as the Middle East and Africa. The Australian Government will provide $100 million over five years from 2010 to 2014 for mine action as we continue to be a major player in global efforts to reduce the threat and impact of land mines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war.

The Story


The powerful story of one girl's indomitable spirit after surviving a land mine in war-ravaged southern Africa.

It is the wise old woman of the village who teaches young Sofia about the secrets in the fire. Within the flames hide all things past and all things yet to be. But not even old Muazena can see the horrors the fire holds for Sofia and her family -- not the murderous bandits who drive them from their home, and not the land mine that takes Sofia's legs.

In her long journey toward recovery, Sofia must still deal with growing up. Along the way, she discovers friends, and foes, in places she'd never expected. Through it all, Sofia draws on a strength she never knew she had, a fire of her own that's been a secret all along. Real-life land mine victim Sofia Alface is the inspiration for Henning Mankell's stunning novel which puts a very human face on the suffering in Africa.

Henning Mankell author

100"I am like an artist who must stand close to the canvas to paint, but then take a step back to see what I have painted. Africa has provided my life with that movement. Some things you can only see at a distance."

Click on image to find out more about Henning.

Amnesty International. Landmine Awareness Watch this video

To raise awareness about the danger of landmines across the world an interactive advertising campaign was developed for Amnesty International. The idea was to replace the traditional print advertisements seen in bus shelters with a digital display. A video camera was installed on the opposite, outside, wall of the shelter sending a live video feed of the environment to the display. This created a transparent, glass effect – as if commuters were staring through the display.

Upon entering the shelter a motion sensor is triggered causing a video sequence to begin. A graphic of a landmine superimposed over the live video suddenly springs from the ground and explodes, catching commuters off guard.

The campaign is meant to raise awareness about the unexpected and undiscriminating nature of landmines by imposing the threat at home. Following the explosion an infographic displays the day’s casualties accompanied by a tagline which reads: “Before your bus arrives a landmine will have either injured or claimed the life of a person”.

Essay on Friendship


A dictionary contains a definition of friendship somewhere in the F’s between the words “fear” and “Friday.” An encyclopedia supplies interesting facts on friendship. But all the definitions and facts do not convey what friendship is really all about. It cannot be understood through words or exaggerations. The only way to understand friendship is through experience. It is an experience that involves all the senses.

Friendship can be seen. It is seen in an old couple sitting in the park holding hands. It is the way they touch, a touch as light as a leaf floating in the autumn air, a touch so strong that years of living could not pull them apart. Friendship is seen in a child freely sharing the last cookie. It is the small arm over the shoulder of another as they walk on the playground. Seeing friendship is not casual. It is watching for subtlety, but friendship is there for eyes that can see.

Friendship can be heard. It is heard in the words of two friends who squeezed in lunch together on an extremely busy day. It is the way they talk to each other, not the words. Their tone is unique. Friendship can be heard by those willing to listen.

Friendship is felt in a touch. It is a pat on the back from a teammate, a high five between classes, the slimy, wet kiss from the family dog. It’s a touch that reassures that someone is there, someone who cares. The touch communicates more than words or gestures. It is instantly understood and speaks volumes beyond the point of contact, to the heart.

Friendship has a taste. It tastes like homemade bread, the ingredients all measured and planned, then carefully mixed and kneaded, then the quiet waiting as the dough rises. Hot from the oven, the bread tastes more than the sum of its ingredients. There is something else there, perhaps the thoughts of the baker as her hands knead the dough, or her patience as she waits for the dough to rise. Unseen and unmeasured, this is the ingredient that makes the difference. Warm, fresh from the oven with a little butter, the difference you taste is friendship.

Friendship has a smell. It smells like the slightly burnt cookies your brother made especially for you. It smells like your home when stepping into it after being away for a long time. It smells like a sandbox or a sweaty gym. Friendship has a variety of smells. Taken for granted at the moment, they define the memory of friendship.

Finally, more than the other senses, friendship is an experience of the heart. It is the language of the heart—a language without words, vowels, or consonants; a language that, whether seen, felt, heard, or tasted, is understood by the heart. Like air fills the lungs, friendship fills the heart, allowing us to experience the best life has to offer: a friend.

Map Africa/Mozambique

Chopi Timbila Orchestra

The Chopi communities live mainly in the southern part of Inhambane province in southern Mozambique and are famous for their orchestra music. Their orchestras consist of five to thirty wooden xylophones called Timbila of varying sizes and ranges of pitch.

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Sofia Alface with her 2 children

Amnesty International Ideas for the classroom