Author: Tony Mochama
Publisher: East African Educational Publishers (2016)
Extent: 143 pages
Reviewer: Joy Ruguru
Cheche Chepchirchir is about to run her first ever 1500m race in Mokongu Secondary School, on a dirt race track in the fringes of Eldoret. Her goal – to reach the finals of the national athletics championships in Nairobi. But it’s not as easy; her fierce competition is led by Jep Jap Jap, the Form 3 undisputed champion who is also a bully. Cheche is almost too scared to run.
Run, Cheche, Run! The crowd cheers Cheche on. Surprising to all – including her biggest rival – she wins the zonal race. This begins her long road to the coveted Nationals at Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi. As expected, her new celebrity status doesn’t go well with her new found enemy- Jep Jap Jap.
A lot of surprises sneak out of the bush. In between being chased by hyenas and bullies, Cheche has a lot going on. Back home, there is a new lady in the house who threatens to take her late mother’s place and thwart her close relationship with her father, Dan. Cheche’s father has to strike a careful balance between being a single father, his boda boda business and trying his hand in marriage.
During the county competition, Cheche overhears a conversation she wasn’t supposed to hear, which might get her, and the whole school in trouble. She has to use her quick legs to save her from death, literally.
If you know Tony Mochama, the book feels very familiar. He interrupts the teenage drama with songs, you could almost imagine him tunelessly singing his old school rock music. The author also adds some titbits of world history (You know, just in case you didn’t know.)
Tony Mochama is celebrating a decade as a writer at the Goethe Institut today Wednesday 31st Jan at 5:30 pm. Entry free.
There’s a lot of foreshadowing infused. A subtle warning of what is to come, though you don’t know what. It fills your head with questions and mystery; subconsciously making you want to read on to find these answers.
“When Cheche’s athlete career and political tension during the 2017 election will run into each other…”
Set in the second half of 2017, this book cunningly reflects the happenings in Kenya, from election violence to school arsons. Cheche’s mother passed away in 2007-2008 election violence, which torments her in nightmares for a whole year when she is six.
Not surprising, Run Cheche Run won 2016 Burt Award for African Literature that recognizes excellence in young adult fiction. But this book comes packed even for adults; filled with great lessons. I learnt a lot from Cheche’s too-smart-for-life friend Antonina a.k.a the autocorrect machine.
Run Cheche Run is the first Kenyan book that I wasn’t compelled to read outside school. It was my goodnight mate. I couldn’t let go of Cheche’s company; I was in their Eldoret house in the woods, in the sitting room crowded with the stench from her father’s socks.
Excellent narration, flawless language, illustrations at the beginning of every chapter, decorated pages, friendly font and witty imagery, this book reads easily. It’s also loaded with a couple of puns that will make you laugh out loud in the middle of the night.
Beatrice Begyon, the plain-faced lass in Lane Four who was built straight as a ruler, with sinewy legs whose nerves showed, got far less applause, but looked very composed. Like a sheet of classical music before the conductor signals ‘play’.
That Netibo was always so composed, like a sheet of Mozart music, she must be up to something major.
His hobby, as a child, had been to catch locusts and grasshoppers, pluck their hind legs off, then watch the crippled insects hop, and laugh at their lame efforts.
The book ends in your hands after a long run in Eldoret. Maybe like Cheche, you might also run your way to greatness.
The reviewer is an editor with Writers Guild Kenya. She blogs at https://lamusicjunkie.wordpress.com