The story begins in Nigeria, with the death of Femi and Sade’s mother. She was killed byagents of the corrupt government, the “Brass Buttons”, to force Folarin Solaja, thechildren’s father, to stop writing for Speak , an uncensored newspaper. The children thenhave to flee the country, where they are not safe. Their Uncle Tunde arranges for themto be smuggled to London, where their Uncle Dele lives, with Mrs Bankole. Their fathershould then join them there.
However, instead of finding the hoped-for safety, they areabandoned by Mrs Bankole in the middle of London, a strange city they know nothingabout. When they are found by the police, they are put into the care of Mrs Graham. Theymeet Jenny, Mama Appiah and Mr. Nathan, who try their best to help them by gettingthe children temporarily admitted in England, and by finding a new foster family forthem: Gracie and Roy King. Sade had to lie to officials about their name so as to no gether father into trouble, and the kindness displayed by the adults makes her feel guiltyabout her lies.
She is also sad about Femi’s sulliness, and feels very homesick. Matters don’t improve on her first day in her new school; she feels lost in the Englisheducation system, much less harsh and demanding with students than in Nigeria. Eventhough she finds friendship and understandingwithMariam, a fellow refugee, and MrMorris, the English teacher, she starts getting bullied by Marcia, and her gang. She isforced to steal a lighter for them, for example, in Mariam’s uncle’s store, somethingthat she feels very guilty about.
She starts dreading going to school, as she doesn’tknow how to deal with bullies. One day, Mama Appiah arrives at the house with good news: she has found the children’sfather, who managed to get into England thanks to a false passport. However, he was puttaken to a Detention Centre because he didn’t ask for political asylum, because he was soworried about his children. The Nigerian Police then announce that he is wanted for themurder of his wife. Desperate, Sade and Femi decide to try and meet a television reporter.