Monday, July 11, 2011

Pigeon English

What the heck? Yet another book I think should have been published as a YA.
Pigeon English is a well written, sometimes painful account of an eleven year old Ghanaian immigrant, Harri, who gets caught up in gang wars in London. His family has been broken up by the immigration and his father and little sister have been left behind in Ghana. Now Harri has the violence, drug dealing and other threats that can come from living in inner city public housing to deal with along language and cultural barriers, loneliness and just plain everyday eleven year old kid worries.

The author Stephen Kelman mixes they murder of a local boy into Harri's story and while it illustrates even more clearly the dangers of Harri's life it also adds an unnecessary element of
Flavia de Luce and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time into the book as Harri and a friend turn amateur detectives. Kelman does a very creditable job recreating Harri's young life and seemingly insurmountable troubles when he isn't belaboring Harri's observations on life. However, there is nothing here that elevates Pigeon English from the two-a-penny teenage problem books that pervade the reading choices of the twelve to sixteen year old set to adult fiction.

P.S. The cover? Painful. It feel like the unhappy marriage of something by the wonderful Ezra Jack Keats and the old Little Bill cartoons. Ick.

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