The World Beneath
At the rise of South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle, a boy must face life decisions that test what he believes—and call for no turning back.South Africa, 1976. Joshua lives with his mother in the maid’s room, in the backyard of their wealthy white employers’ house in the city by the sea. He doesn’t quite understand the events going on around him. But when he rescues a stranger and riots begin to sweep the country, Joshua has to face the world beneath—the world deep inside him—to make heartbreaking choices that will change his life forever. Genuine and quietly unflinching, this beautifully nuanced novel from a veteran journalist captures a child’s-eye view of the struggle that shaped a nation and riveted the world.

The World Beneath Details

TitleThe World Beneath
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMay 24th, 2016
PublisherCandlewick Press
ISBN-139780763678562
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Childrens, Middle Grade, Cultural, Africa

The World Beneath Review

  • Ms. Yingling
    January 1, 1970
    E ARC from Netgalley.comJoshua is growing up in South Africa in the 1970s. His mother works for the Malherbe's, who are wealthy but rather dysfunctional. Because Joshua had tuberculosis as a child, he is not living with his grandparents in their rural village as his siblings are, but lives with his mother and helps in the yard and with jobs around the house. Slowly, Joshua starts to realize, after conversations with friends and family, that the way of life that he has always known is unfair, and E ARC from Netgalley.comJoshua is growing up in South Africa in the 1970s. His mother works for the Malherbe's, who are wealthy but rather dysfunctional. Because Joshua had tuberculosis as a child, he is not living with his grandparents in their rural village as his siblings are, but lives with his mother and helps in the yard and with jobs around the house. Slowly, Joshua starts to realize, after conversations with friends and family, that the way of life that he has always known is unfair, and that he and his mother should not have to be subservient and have fewer opportunities than the white Africans do. Change is difficult, however, and Joshua sees the problems that arise when the status quo is questioned. Strengths: This is an important topic that has seen little coverage in middle grade literature. The author gives a lot of details about every day life, and writes effectively about the difficulties faced by Joshua and his family. Weaknesses: Even I needed a lot more background information about the history of South Africa to understand what was going on in the book. Even notes in the back would have helped. For a South African audience, who knows the background, this would be a powerful book. What I really think: While I would love to have books on this topic, I may pass on this one because I think my students will find it confusing.
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  • Devyn
    January 1, 1970
    I received this book from Goodreads.Is it sad to say that I have little to no knowledge about the subject matter in this book? Sure, I knew about it but I didn't put any extended thought on it or bother to study it in depth.Despite feeling guilty for my ignorance I loved this book. It is thought provoking and honest. Kids need to understand that not everyone had Human Rights while growing up. Some had to fight for it. Reading about the injustice and struggle made my heart squeeze from the unnece I received this book from Goodreads.Is it sad to say that I have little to no knowledge about the subject matter in this book? Sure, I knew about it but I didn't put any extended thought on it or bother to study it in depth.Despite feeling guilty for my ignorance I loved this book. It is thought provoking and honest. Kids need to understand that not everyone had Human Rights while growing up. Some had to fight for it. Reading about the injustice and struggle made my heart squeeze from the unnecessary cruelty of it all. For such a small book it carries some heavy content.
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  • K.L. Hallam
    January 1, 1970
    This historical novel opens up in Cape Town, South Africa, 1976 during apartheid. Twelve-year-old, Joshua dreams about his big brother, who works in Johannesburg, and he fears for his life. His mother, they call Beauty, not her Xhosa name is the maid in a white household, and she assures Joshua his brother’s fine. Sent to live with his mother and the wealthy Malherbe’s while he recovers from tuberculosis, Joshua hides his presence. He’s not supposed to be seen. There’s a cupboard under the stair This historical novel opens up in Cape Town, South Africa, 1976 during apartheid. Twelve-year-old, Joshua dreams about his big brother, who works in Johannesburg, and he fears for his life. His mother, they call Beauty, not her Xhosa name is the maid in a white household, and she assures Joshua his brother’s fine. Sent to live with his mother and the wealthy Malherbe’s while he recovers from tuberculosis, Joshua hides his presence. He’s not supposed to be seen. There’s a cupboard under the stairs, where he keeps out of everyone’s way, listening to the sounds of the house. One day, he finds himself on a “whites only” street with money in his pocket. His mother had told him, “You must never let the police see you. You are not supposed to be here. You must be invisible.”But when kind-hearted, Joshua comes across Tsumalo, a black man being hunted down by the police the outside world enters to the house of the Malherbe’s, and Joshua hides him in the shack no one visits. Tsumalo explains the cruel injustices taking place in South Africa. “We are fighting for freedom, Joshua. The whites have the power, and they don’t want to share it with us. They call it apartheid.”The two become very close, Tsumalo much like the father he never had. Joshua wants to return home to Ciske, where his grandparents live with his younger brother and sister. But he also wants to help, be like his brother, and fight for justice. Only he has to get an education, first, which is denied black people under apartheid. An explosive incident happens at the Malherbe’s, and Joshua is separated from his mother and Tsumalo. But two years later, Joshua returns to the town he grew up, and to the house his mother worked, knowing he has to make a choice, a choice that could send him to prison without a trial. Difficult and heartbreaking, readers follow Joshua through what he has to endure; be prepared to become angry when reminded of the ignorance of racism and apartheid. This book is a good starting point for discussions about human rights and democracy, but some passages may not be clear enough for young readers. The author is a reporter now, who lived in South Africa during this time.
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  • Sherif MohyEldeen
    January 1, 1970
    I have read many novels and autobiographies of the apartheid and the life struggles in South Africa, and while Trevor Noah's "Born a Crime" and Zubeida Jaffer "Our Generation" were ones of my best, I can say that this novel "The World Beneath" was the worst in my opinion. The flow of events is more like talking about physics, you do this, and that will happen! It is a very bad writing in my opinion and the idea of organizing a very small novel of fewer than 170 pages into 31 chapters is a very b I have read many novels and autobiographies of the apartheid and the life struggles in South Africa, and while Trevor Noah's "Born a Crime" and Zubeida Jaffer "Our Generation" were ones of my best, I can say that this novel "The World Beneath" was the worst in my opinion. The flow of events is more like talking about physics, you do this, and that will happen! It is a very bad writing in my opinion and the idea of organizing a very small novel of fewer than 170 pages into 31 chapters is a very bad one. The dialogue and describing of characters and its development are also so bad. I have to admit that at the last pages of the novel, I had to do a little skimming because it was so boring to me. Finally, I understand that the novel comes from what the author experienced while living under the apartheid. Unfortunately, it can be considered as a very white experience of a white girl has never experienced the real life and tried to write about it, maybe out of "the white man's burden". Nevertheless, it has ended in a very bad writing!
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  • Saleena Davidson
    January 1, 1970
    World Beneath is a difficult read. It's set in apartheid era South Africa and really is the story of one boy who is caught up in things and what it does to his life. This is an important book, as it really highlights the horrors of what apartheid and Jim Crow (in the US) laws did to people......but it is not an easy or a comfortable book. Highly recommended.
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  • Melissa
    January 1, 1970
    This is a short book and interesting story. I don’t know if it was the writing style or what but at times I felt it was hard to follow. But I always enjoy a glimpse into a life and time and place I haven’t experienced myself
  • Virginia McGee Butler
    January 1, 1970
    When I plan to review a book, I read little about it before I begin my own reading because I don’t want to bias my evaluation. In the case of The World Beneath by Janice Warman, this restriction was a disadvantage. In the author’s note at the end she writes, “I grew up as a privileged white child surrounded by poverty and deprivation in a world we did not see.” That world was South Africa in 1976 which becomes the setting for her book. She draws on her own experience to give us the story of Josh When I plan to review a book, I read little about it before I begin my own reading because I don’t want to bias my evaluation. In the case of The World Beneath by Janice Warman, this restriction was a disadvantage. In the author’s note at the end she writes, “I grew up as a privileged white child surrounded by poverty and deprivation in a world we did not see.” That world was South Africa in 1976 which becomes the setting for her book. She draws on her own experience to give us the story of Joshua who lives with his mother in the maid’s room in the back yard of her wealthy white employers. He understands little of what is happening around him but knows the need to be unobserved. Slowly the world around him begins to change and he must make some dangerous choices. Those versed in the history of South African apartheid will recognize situations and names before he does and know how perilous his decisions may be. The novel contains tension from the family situation and the world around it and keeps the reader engaged. The problem I found was the lack of character development even with Joshua. There was a reason for that! After I finished the book and did a bit of reading about it, I discovered the author was a veteran journalist. I wished I had known that as I was reading. I would have understood that the book read like a documentary that is hyped for days before it is shown on TV. I recommend the book as a read together book for parent and child or in a classroom, beginning with the note in the endpapers on Amnesty International and the information about resources to use fiction to teach about human rights. The connection from this story to other examples of injustice seems to be natural with this quote from the afterword, “We are all born with human rights, no matter who we are or where we live, but we are not always allowed access to them. Human rights are about justice, truth, and freedom. They are part of what makes us human.”
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  • Sandy
    January 1, 1970
    This novel was thin and was a fast read. I picked it up on a whim as the cover had been calling to me for weeks. There was something about the covers design and colors that attracted my attention. I wish I could give this novel glowing reviews since it has perked my attention for so long but unfortunately I thought the novel was just touching on the surface of a much deeper issue. I also was craving more information about the characters and their lives, why couldn’t the author elaborate more? Th This novel was thin and was a fast read. I picked it up on a whim as the cover had been calling to me for weeks. There was something about the covers design and colors that attracted my attention. I wish I could give this novel glowing reviews since it has perked my attention for so long but unfortunately I thought the novel was just touching on the surface of a much deeper issue. I also was craving more information about the characters and their lives, why couldn’t the author elaborate more? The novel showcased the inequality that was occurring in the 1970’s in Africa as seen through the eyes of young Joshua. His mother was a maid trying to earn enough money to provide for her other children who live with her parents. Separated from his siblings, Joshua tries to stay out of the eyes of the wealthy owners as he tends to a few chores around the quarters. It’s his inquisitive mind and his childlike ways that spin this story off into another direction as Joshua runs an errand for the lady of the house and he finds himself distracted while trying to stay invisible. Joshua soon realizes that the world is a bigger place with problems that he never knew existed. It’s about rights and who is entitled to them and for young Joshua this is a new concept and one that he didn’t understand. I wished the author would have given more history and explanation of the time period and the characters as I thought parts of the novel were confusing and not as well addressed as they could have been. I did like the character of Joshua, his inquiring mind and his attitude brought the novel together.
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  • Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
    January 1, 1970
    2.5 starsThe World Beneath is one of those awkward books that’s doomed by straddling the middle ground between middle grade and young adult fiction. The length, writing, and protagonist’s age lend themselves more readily to a middle grade audience, but the subject matter might be a bit heavy for the bulk of a middle grade audience (though obviously mileage varies). As it is, reading with the lens of an adult reader who mostly reads YA, The World Beneath lacked sufficient substance to make it mem 2.5 starsThe World Beneath is one of those awkward books that’s doomed by straddling the middle ground between middle grade and young adult fiction. The length, writing, and protagonist’s age lend themselves more readily to a middle grade audience, but the subject matter might be a bit heavy for the bulk of a middle grade audience (though obviously mileage varies). As it is, reading with the lens of an adult reader who mostly reads YA, The World Beneath lacked sufficient substance to make it memorable or impactful.The setting and historical aspects were super interesting. I don’t know too much about apartheid South Africa, and, even with its brevity, I did pick up some new knowledge. Joshua has an interesting view of it all too, first living with his mother as she works for a wealthy white family and later as part of the struggle against apartheid.Sadly, though, there was little to no emotional connection; there’s not much characterization for anyone. I liked Joshua, and I wanted good things for him, but I don’t feel like I knew him well. It really doesn’t help that the book is broken into sections with time jumps in between. Joshua grows up, and we miss it. I’d finally get sort of into the book and suddenly it’s later and Joshua’s with a completely different group of people and I’m confused. Settle in again and BOOM time jump.The World Beneath felt incomplete, like half of the book ended up on the cutting room floor. The experience of reading it is a bit like watching a movie but falling asleep during a couple of key points and leaving confused and uninvested.
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  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    As a young black boy living in South Africa during the 1970’s, Joshua’s normal is to keep his head down and stay out of the way while his mother keeps house for a wealthy white family. As time passes, Joshua begins to view his world with new eyes as the inequality and brutality of apartheid more and more apparent. While little historical background of apartheid or the struggle to overcome it is provided, this title is a perfect introduction and discussion starter to the the topic. Pair this titl As a young black boy living in South Africa during the 1970’s, Joshua’s normal is to keep his head down and stay out of the way while his mother keeps house for a wealthy white family. As time passes, Joshua begins to view his world with new eyes as the inequality and brutality of apartheid more and more apparent. While little historical background of apartheid or the struggle to overcome it is provided, this title is a perfect introduction and discussion starter to the the topic. Pair this title with non-fiction works regarding South African history.
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  • Michelle Kidwell
    January 1, 1970
    The World BeneathA Novelby Janice WarmanCandlewick PressCandlewickChildren's FictionPub Date 24 May 2016He dreamt his older brother Sippho was hurt. His older brother who was away in Johansberg trying to earn money to help his family. His Mother assures him it's only a dream. Joshua's Mother works as a maid for a white family but the family does not wish to have him around which has him worried after their little daughter takes a liking to him and wants to play. Soon though Joshua must escape a The World BeneathA Novelby Janice WarmanCandlewick PressCandlewickChildren's FictionPub Date 24 May 2016He dreamt his older brother Sippho was hurt. His older brother who was away in Johansberg trying to earn money to help his family. His Mother assures him it's only a dream. Joshua's Mother works as a maid for a white family but the family does not wish to have him around which has him worried after their little daughter takes a liking to him and wants to play. Soon though Joshua must escape and find freedom. The master of the household cannot know he is there and soon he finds himself on his own.Soon it is discovered that Sippho is murdered along with a Black Concseuss leader by the name of Steve Biko. Set in South Africa in the mid to late 1970's The World Beneath does a good job of contrasting the lives of Wealthy white Aficans to the Poor Black Africans and the prejudices that were still very much part of life then, but the Murder of Steve Bikko only seemed to intensify that fight, rightly so.I give this book five out of five starsHappy Reading
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  • Bethany
    January 1, 1970
    Joshua lives in the unjust world of apartheid. He lives as a hidden son of a housemaid--a woman who is supposed to serve and not have a life of her own--in a home with one abusive husband and one indulgent but fearful wife. When a fugitive needs help, Joshua, his mother, and eventually the household provide protection while slowly becoming embroiled in the dangerous uprising. The first part of the book uses clear storytelling and sets the events carefully in their places. The second portion, how Joshua lives in the unjust world of apartheid. He lives as a hidden son of a housemaid--a woman who is supposed to serve and not have a life of her own--in a home with one abusive husband and one indulgent but fearful wife. When a fugitive needs help, Joshua, his mother, and eventually the household provide protection while slowly becoming embroiled in the dangerous uprising. The first part of the book uses clear storytelling and sets the events carefully in their places. The second portion, however, dissolves into brief fragments that flit by almost too quickly to grasp.South African history isn't on the curriculum for most US primary and middle schools, and American readers may find the plot difficult to follow. Readers in South Africa, or with strong connections to its history, may find this a powerful perspective on the tumultuous but ultimately successful overthrow of apartheid.(Read as an ARC via NetGalley.)
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  • Lynn
    January 1, 1970
    The World Beneath begins in 1976 in South Africa during apartheid. Joshua is battling back from tuberculosis which has led to his mother bringing him to Johannesburg where she works as a maid for a white family. These are long days for Joshua who has to carefully watch for the return of the husband who does not want Joshua in the house. One day, on an errand for the wife, Joshua encounters the police who are searching for a man. As he makes his way home, Joshua finds the man and takes him back h The World Beneath begins in 1976 in South Africa during apartheid. Joshua is battling back from tuberculosis which has led to his mother bringing him to Johannesburg where she works as a maid for a white family. These are long days for Joshua who has to carefully watch for the return of the husband who does not want Joshua in the house. One day, on an errand for the wife, Joshua encounters the police who are searching for a man. As he makes his way home, Joshua finds the man and takes him back home to hide in the garden shed. This will be Joshua's first introduction to the resistance movement.Based on the writing style, I would categorize this as a middle grade book. The novel surrounds the periphery of apartheid and without a prior understanding of the situation in South Africa, I'm not sure that on its own it would provide a young reader with much knowledge about apartheid. It would be a great companion piece to curriculum examining apartheid.
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  • Tanja
    January 1, 1970
    A thought-provoking novel set during the apartheid era. A powerful story that will surely achieve what the author hopes for: making the younger generation aware of what happened, not letting all the injustices be forgotten, the brutality with which both sides fought, as well as remembering the many brave people who were willing to risk their lives to free South Africa from apartheid. While I found the story in the end wrapped up a bit too fast for my liking, overall I appreciated the varying pac A thought-provoking novel set during the apartheid era. A powerful story that will surely achieve what the author hopes for: making the younger generation aware of what happened, not letting all the injustices be forgotten, the brutality with which both sides fought, as well as remembering the many brave people who were willing to risk their lives to free South Africa from apartheid. While I found the story in the end wrapped up a bit too fast for my liking, overall I appreciated the varying pace and knowing that this will leave many readers with lots of questions and an interest to find out more about this period of time in South Africa's history.
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  • Alethia
    January 1, 1970
    Wow. I wasn't expecting help to come from so many directions. I didn't expect Joshua to tell his mother, and I didn't expect his mother to allow it. I didn't expect him to tell the gardner, and I'm still surprised he didn't tell. I didn't expect Robert to find out, and didn't expect him to be fine with it, nor let his mother in on it who also agreed to it. I didn't expect Mr Malherbe to murder his wife for speaking sharply. I didn't expect he'd do it at all, but I guess he didn't think about it Wow. I wasn't expecting help to come from so many directions. I didn't expect Joshua to tell his mother, and I didn't expect his mother to allow it. I didn't expect him to tell the gardner, and I'm still surprised he didn't tell. I didn't expect Robert to find out, and didn't expect him to be fine with it, nor let his mother in on it who also agreed to it. I didn't expect Mr Malherbe to murder his wife for speaking sharply. I didn't expect he'd do it at all, but I guess he didn't think about it much at the time. It was really short, bjt I still think it provided the right amount of detail to get a grasp of the situation.
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  • Nadine
    January 1, 1970
    A very evocative story of a young boy growing up in South Africa around the peak of the anti-apartheid era. All the details ring true to that time of uncertainty and fear. The domestic violence neatly contrasted with the societal violence. Some ambiguity in the portrayal of the white characters who are perhaps given more credit than what may have been plausible even in more liberal Cape Town. Well worth reading.
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  • Kim Herrington
    January 1, 1970
    The story of Joshua, a young black boy, and his coming of age with the rise of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. This book is too short to go very deep into the history of South Africa or with characterization of Joshua or the other characters (black and white) in the book . At just over 150 pages, this story told in short chapters would make a good read aloud and a good introduction to the history of South Africa and the fight to end apartheid.
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  • Sue
    January 1, 1970
    A short novel that looks at the racial inequality in South Africa in 1976 through the eyes of a boy. Joshua finds himself discovering the truth about the world in which he lives as he tries to make sense of what is happening. He has a likable innocence, but the book seems to lack substance. There are a lot of issues to flesh out which could be done through a novel study, but the story is a bit slow.
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  • Laura Phelps
    January 1, 1970
    The first part of this book beautifully and heart-breakingly shows what it was like to grow up in South Africa during the apartheid era. Warman’s writing is really sparse, but in a good way, so that the pictures she paints of Joshua and his surroundings are achingly clear. Unfortunately, the last portion of the books feels like an unedited add on - the pace gets out of whack and Joshua’s journey becomes confusing. Still most definitely worth a read.
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  • Kelsey Johnson
    January 1, 1970
    Joshua and his mom lived in South Africa while his mom worked for the Malherbe. All of Joshua's siblings live with his grandparents and he couldn't because he had TB as a child. Later as Joshua grows up he notices that white Africans have more opportunities than black Africans and he thinks its unfair to him and his mom
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  • Leonard Kim
    January 1, 1970
    The author writes in her note that she read the manuscript to her 7 and 9-year-old which surprises me. This doesn't seem like a book for young people to me.
  • Kirsty
    January 1, 1970
    A really quick read with an important message to share with the world. I would have liked a bit more depth to the story to draw me in a bit more to make me enjoy it more fully.
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