Boy 87

Boy 87

Boy 87
Ele Fountain

Pushkin Children's Books

ISBN 9781782691976

Shif is just an ordinary boy who likes chess, maths and racing his best friend home from school. But one day,soldiers with guns come to his door - and he knows that he is no longer safe. Shif is forced to leave his mother and little sister,and embark on a dangerous journey; a journey through imprisonment and escape,new lands and strange voices, and a perilous crossing by land and sea. He will encounter cruelty and kindness; he will become separated from the people he loves. Boy 87 is a gripping, uplifting tale of one boy's struggle for survival; it echoes the story of young people all over the world today.

'Boy 87 is an original and beautifully written page-turner of a novel about love, survival and the strength that can be found in a hopeful human spirit' -- Sarah Crossan, Carnegie Medal Winner 'Shif is an unforgettable character, and his story should be read by everyone who cares about one of the unfolding tragedies of our time' -- Award-winning author Elizabeth Laird

Librarian's Book choice

Shif has a best friend, and lives with his mum and sister. He's really good at maths, loves chess and wants to be an Engineer. He's living an ordinary life until he's followed by soldiers on his way home from the shops. From that moment, his life is changed forever.

Before he knows it, Shif is on his own, he's terrified and he doesn't know if he'll ever see his family again. On his incredible journey, Shif will endure unbelievable hardship and encounter people who have nothing but still show him life-changing kindness.

Boy 87 is fantastically written and the chapters are short, not one word is wasted in this fast-paced, whirlwind story. The characters are completely believable and it will make you feel like this experience could just happen to anyone. I was enjoying the story so much, I only wish is the book could have been longer.

This is a striking book that will stop you in your tracks. It's a terrifying journey, one that we cannot imagine. We take our safety for granted when so many children in the world suffer immeasurably. This is a superb book for anyone who has read and enjoyed Benjamin Zephaniah's Refugee Boy or Judith Kerr's When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit.

It's essentially a modern story of our times. The hopelessness, and the hope, are what I will take from this book. It made me feel lucky.

224 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Victoria Long, school librarian.



Ele Fountain


Boy 87 is an accessible if often difficult story that reminds us that, behind every refugee statistic, is a real person with an often desperate story.

The Boy 87 in this story is Shif, a 14 -year-old boy who is numbered the day he and his friend, Bini, are arrested by the army when they are suspected of trying to leave the country. After a very ordinary childhood, they now find themselves incarcerated in terrible conditions. However, the kindness of the men they are imprisoned with shines through and escape plans are hatched. This is when Shif's dangerous journey to the Mediterranean and Europe begins and it's a real whirlwind of danger and adventure.

Shif's story is told in spare prose and in the first person, which makes it all the more vivid and engaging. Author Ele Fountain vividly brings to life the dangers Shif faces in the crossing as well as the other problems he has to navigate before he even gets near a boat, such as local trafficking and hostility.

While the country he is from is never named - making his story universal - it is clear that Shif has little option but to leave his family behind and as a reader, we very much hope that he finds a better future; the story ends on a hopeful note for Shif.

Boy 87 would make a gripping class or book group read, which vividly brings to life the country that Shif is from. There is much for children aged 11+ to discuss including the issues Shif and his family face at home; the often thin line that separates an economic migrant from a refugee; and why people are willing to put themselves in such physical danger in attempting the crossing to Europe.

Older readers could go on to find out more about the political instabilities that have shaped the current refugee crisis in Europe and compare it with previous periods in history that have caused large population movements.

Be warned that there are moments of real hardship in Shif's story and while the violence is carefully handled, some readers might find parts of Boy 87 difficult. That said, it is also a book that skillfully explores the current refugee crisis and will answer many of the questions children might want to ask about it. It is also a vivid and beautifully-written story; I'm looking forward to seeing what Ele Fountain writes next.

224 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Emma Long

Reviewed by: Emma Long