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Pigeon English Paperback – 7 Mar 2011

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Paperback, 7 Mar 2011

Product details

  • Paperback: 263 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing; 1st edition (7 Mar. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408810638
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408810637
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 2.5 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (213 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 160,567 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Simultaneously accurate and fantastical, this boy's love letter to the world made me laugh and tremble all the way through. Pigeon English is a triumph' Emma Donoghue, author of Room

'A powerful and impressive novel ... Kelman knows the world of boys - their language, their humour, their thoughts - and Harri's voice is dazzlingly authentic. Utterly convincing and deeply moving, this is a book that we should all read' Clare Morrall, author of The Man Who Disappeared

'Pigeon English is a book to fall in love with: a funny book, a true book, a shattering book ... If you loved Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time or Emma Donoghue's Man Booker-shortlisted Room, you'll love this book too' Erica Wagner, The Times

'One of the hardest things in fiction is to write from a child's point of view - Kelman does it brilliantly' Alex Clark, Guardian

Book Description

Deeply funny, moving, idiosyncratic and unforgettable, Pigeon English introduces a major new literary talent

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

101 of 106 people found the following review helpful By Simon Savidge Reads TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 15 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback
There is an underlying issue with `reviewing' a novel like `Pigeon English' and daring to critique it. It almost makes you wonder should you dare to because the subject matter is a delicate one, in the main it seems that Stephen Kelman took the story of school boy Damiloa Taylor's death and wrote a fictional response about/to it. `Pigeon English is told by eleven year old Harrison Opuku, a young man who is also an immigrant from Ghana now living on one of the tower block council estates in London. This is an area of street gangs, poverty and violence; in fact the novel opens with the death of a school boy who Harrison sort of knew.

Writing in a child's narrative has become something of trend in modern contemporary writing, long before `Room' we had `What Was Lost' (and indeed the theme of child detective comes up in this book as Harrison and his best friend decide to hunt the killer), it is also a hard act to balance when on a tough subject. Can you hold the reader's belief? Does the narrative ring true? Does the simplicity of the voice dilute the events that are happening? Sadly, for me at least, whilst I loved Harrison's view on life, which often made me laugh out loud, it took away the impact of the novel. When you are spending time in the company of this lively witty young man you are also left missing a lot. I never felt I got to know any of the other characters deeply, the other school kids like X-Fire (pronounced Cross Fire) or Killa became almost like cartoon caricatures, his sister and mother has no real back story other than one being the matriarch and the other a bit of a pain. I also felt like there was a whole back story in Ghana I simply didn't know enough about.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Janie U VINE VOICE on 9 July 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Harrison is a little boy from Ghana who has come to London with his mother and sister for a better life and finds himself living in a tower block on a rough estate. A boy has been stabbed to death and, with his friend, Harrison decides to investigate.
Through Harrison's eyes we explore the estate and the people who live there. He is surrounded by some truly horrible people and describes them in a way that is unencumbered by social prejudice. The language used has elements of childlike words combined with familiar adult phrases used in slightly incorrect context. Combined with the slang of Ghana, the language is fascinating and is a large part of making the book so interesting.
The plot is not a key element in the book, it is more about social commentary.
The innocent child's view of British society is quite bleak and this is well explored - eg "In England nobody helps you when you fall over, they can't tell if you're serious or if it's just a trick."
Beautifully touching!!
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59 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Nikki Dudley on 27 Feb. 2011
Format: Paperback
I was given this at work to review for the childrens' website. It was an interesting tale - Harri, an eleven year old boy from Ghana is settling into his new life in the UK. He lives with his mother and slightly older sister. He is the second fastest runner in year 7, he draws the stripes on his 'Adidas' trainers, he is fascinated with the Dell Farm Crew and he is friends with Dean.

When a boy is murdered on his estate, Harri and Dean start to investigate. They collect prints, observe people around their estate and search for the murder weapon. In a world where they don't trust the police, Harri's investigation starts to reach his sister, his friends, the notorious Dell Farm Crew who terrorise his estate and school, and even Harri himself.

This is a gritty and funny book which deals with serious issues. Harri's voice is unique - abrupt, discriminate and innocent all at once. My only gripe is the paragraphs written from a pigeon's perspective which just didn't work for me, but overall, a great read and I would much recommend.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By beccalikesbooks on 4 Oct. 2012
Format: Paperback
Harri Opoku is in Year 7 at school. He likes football, Adidas trainers, superheroes, and telling stories to his baby sister Agnes. He lives with his mum and older sister Lydia on a council estate in London, where they have recently moved from Ghana. The story begins when a local boy is murdered outside Chicken Joe's takeaway... and the police don't seem to have any leads. Harri decided that this is simply not on, so he and his friend Dean (who is surprisingly talented despite having ginger hair) decide to look for clues themselves.

I've wanted to read this book since it was shortlisted for both the Man Booker Prize and Guardian First Book Award in 2011, but it's only now that Bloomsbury have released it for young adults, with an amazing, blarey new cover, that I have. I'm so glad that I did, and very pleased that it is being promoted as YA, because it is quite simply brilliant.

Harri's voice is like a beam of sunshine coming of the page; he's sweet, energetic and unintentionally hilarious in his naivety. Kelman's writing is outstanding, from Harri's second-hand English scattered with street slang (which he sometimes gets wrong) to his perfect ear for dialogue between the teenage boys or Harri bantering with Lydia. The world of gangs, council flats, knife crime and girls is completely new to Harri, so it is incredibly refreshing and interesting to see it through his eyes. The dark undertones are balanced by Harri's cheery demeanour, but the book still manages to look deeply and unflinchingly at the violence (there is a 'Parental Advisory warning logo on the back, which amused me - this is not a PG-rated version of things at all), and it's easy to see how even someone like Harri can slowly become irretrievably tangled up in it.
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