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Pigeon English
by Stephen Kelman

Overview -

Lying in front of Harrison Opuku is a body, the body of one of his classmates, a boy known for his crazy basketball skills, who seems to have been murdered for his dinner.

Armed with a pair of camouflage binoculars and detective techniques absorbed from television shows like CSI, Harri and his best friend, Dean, plot to bring the perpetrator to justice.  Read more...


 
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More About Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman
 
 
 
Overview

Lying in front of Harrison Opuku is a body, the body of one of his classmates, a boy known for his crazy basketball skills, who seems to have been murdered for his dinner.

Armed with a pair of camouflage binoculars and detective techniques absorbed from television shows like CSI, Harri and his best friend, Dean, plot to bring the perpetrator to justice. They gather evidence -- fingerprints lifted from windows with tape, a wallet stained with blood -- and lay traps to flush out the murderer. But nothing can prepare them for what happens when a criminal feels you closing in on him.

Recently emigrated from Ghana with his sister and mother to LondonÂ’s enormous housing projects, Harri is pure curiosity and ebullience -- obsessed with gummy candy, a friend to the pigeon who visits his balcony, quite possibly the fastest runner in his school, and clearly also fast on the trail of a murderer.

Told in Harri's infectious voice and multicultural slang, Pigeon English follows in the tradition of our great novels of friendship and adventure, as Harri finds wonder, mystery, and danger in his new, ever-expanding world.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780547500607
  • ISBN-10: 0547500602
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
  • Publish Date: July 2011
  • Page Count: 263


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Literary
Books > Fiction > Coming of Age

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2011-05-02
  • Reviewer: Staff

Kelman's debut novel is a well-tuned if simplistic portrait of a kid's life in the housing projects of London. After 11-year-old Harri, whose family has immigrated from Ghana, sees a classmate lying dead on the sidewalk one night, Harri and his buddy, Dean Griffin, set out to solve the murder, looking for the murder weapon, interviewing suspects, and gathering evidence. But the strength of this novel is not its murder mystery; rather, it's in hearing all Harri's thoughts as he falls in love, talks to his baby sister, or expresses himself in his own idiosyncratic language. The street-talk slang that Harri uses—boring things take "donkey hours" and Nike Air trainers are "bo-styles"—is crisp and mirthful, the perfect match to his at once naïve and revealing views on things like religion and race. The main flaw is also a feature: Harri's a very well-drawn 11-year-old, and no matter how cute he and his worldview are, it's sometimes tempting to want to pat him on the head and send him along his way. (July)

 
BookPage Reviews

An immigrant's tale

Just when the publishing world is ready to assert that nothing good ever comes out of the slush pile, a talent like Stephen Kelman comes along. The 34-year-old Englishman—who before turning to writing worked in jobs ranging from house-cleaner to warehouse operative—began his novel, Pigeon English, in response to a spate of news stories about British youth violence. But he also called upon his own childhood experience, which was not unlike that of Hari Opuku, the narrator of this electric debut.

An 11-year-old Ghanaian immigrant who loves sneakers, YouTube and driving his older sister crazy, Hari is decidedly a child. Yet he’s also wise beyond his years—growing up as part of a London housing project’s insular community of illegal aliens, addicts and knife-wielding thugs will do that to a kid. Indeed, violence is a common occurrence, and one Hari describes with as much honesty, humor and emotion as he does a grade-school crush or the pigeon that regularly visits his balcony. Still, when one of his classmates is killed in the street, Hari does feel deeply moved and decides, along with his best friend Dean, to solve the crime using techniques gleaned from episodes of “CSI.” But while his attempts to go undercover and obtain DNA samples may seem comical, as the duo comes closer to the truth (and the murderer), their adventures grow ever more dangerous.

Hari’s joie de vivre is infectious, and his voice simultaneously charming and haunting—similar to the narrators of Emma Donoghue’s Room or Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. And much like those books, Pigeon English is a story for adults whose success rests almost entirely on the unreliability of a child’s interpretation. Were Kelman to have entrusted this tale to an older teller, we’d no doubt lose the excitement, immediacy and hopefulness that infuses it.

 
BAM Customer Reviews

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