Prepare to fall in love as Harrison Opuku bursts off the page and into the readerís heart. Harri is eleven, a recent immigrant from Ghana. He
now lives in England with his mother and sister. His father, grandmother and baby sister
have been left behind until the family can afford for them to come also. Living in the projects, Harri is amazed at all the new things he sees. The subway is an amazing item that he canít quite believe works. He thinks it is
bo-styles--the word for the ultimate cool. He is thrilled by remote control cars, cell phones, and new trainers. Harriís best skill is his running; no one can catch him when he runs. He is the kind of boy who is open to all experiences, taking them in and finding the good in everything around him. Harri tends to like everyone; even the pigeons who flock around the housing projects, occasionally getting inside. Where others see a mess that should be cleared away, Harri sees a friend.
But not everything is positive in Harriís world. Gangs abound, and as a newcomer, he is tested for inclusion. Daily life is full of insults and casual violence, and Harri is sometimes tempted by these acts. Worst of all, a boy who is the star of the basketball court is murdered on the streets. The motive? No one knows for sure; maybe even just for his dinner. Harri and his friend Dean decide that they will find the killer. Full of facts gained from
CSI shows, they attempt to lift fingerprints and find DNA, sure that they can find the culprit and bring him to justice.
Stephen Kelman has created a character that readers will not soon forget. The language
(sometimes rough) is spot-on for a child growing up in modern England in the housing projects,
the facts that are commonplace knowledge breathtaking. Through it all, the sweetness of Harriís personality shines through. Kelman himself grew up in the housing projects of England and worked as a careworker, a warehouse operative, in marketing and in local government administration before focusing on writing. Pigeon English was nominated for the Booker Prize,
which comes as no surprise. This is a stunning, excellent book; the fact that it is a debut novel is almost unimaginable.
Recommended for all readers.