Pigeon English

Pigeon English

3.52 (9,693 ratings by Goodreads)
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Newly arrived from Ghana with his mother and older sister, eleven-year-old Harrison Opoku lives on the ninth floor of a block of flats on an inner-city housing estate. The second best runner in the whole of Year 7, Harri races through his new life in his personalised trainers - the Adidas stripes drawn on with marker pen - blissfully unaware of the very real threat all around him.

With equal fascination for the local gang - the Dell Farm Crew - and the pigeon who visits his balcony, Harri absorbs the many strange elements of his new life in England: watching, listening, and learning the tricks of urban survival.

But when a boy is knifed to death on the high street and a police appeal for witnesses draws only silence, Harri decides to start a murder investigation of his own. In doing so, he unwittingly endangers the fragile web his mother has spun around her family to try and keep them safe.

A story of innocence and experience, hope and harsh reality, Pigeon English is a spellbinding portrayal of a boy balancing on the edge of manhood and of the forces around him that try to shape the way he falls.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 288 pages
  • 153 x 234 x 29mm | 444g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • w. ill.
  • 1408810638
  • 9781408810637
  • 38,840

Flap copy

Advise yourself! It's time to jump into "Pigeon English" and experience the jubilant, infectious voice of Harrison Opuku. See why he is bo-styles. How being the fastest runner in Year 7 makes him dope-fine. And why, when a hutious criminal feels Harri closing in on him, it just feels crazy. You'll want this book to last donkey hours.
Harri begins his story when he finds himself facing the body of one of his classmates, a boy known for his crazy basketball skills, a boy who seems to have been murdered for his dinner. The police have no leads, so Harri and his best friend launch into action. Armed with camouflage binoculars and detective techniques absorbed from television, they gather evidence -- fingerprints lifted from windows with sellotape, a wallet stained with blood -- and lay traps to flush out the murderer.
Recently emigrated from Ghana to London and its enormous housing projects, Harri is awed by the city. Filled with curiosity and ebullience -- obsessed with gummy candy, a friend to everyone he meets (even the pigeon that visits his balcony) -- Harri is still tempted by the glamour and power of the gangs running his neighborhood. His world will be forever altered by the Dell Farm Crew.
And your world will be forever altered by the discovery of the searing, endearing, and virtuosic writing of Stephen Kelman, who, in the great tradition of "Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha" and "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," takes us deeply and fully into one boy's life.
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Back cover copy

"Intelligent, observant." --"The New Yorker"" " "Since Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, there have been certain rules observed when children play detective. Stephen Kelman throws them all out . . .The mystery is secondary to the pleasures of listening to Harri." --"Christian Science Monitor" "Like "Room..." and Mark Haddon's "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time . . .Pigeon English" is a novel for adults told in the remarkable voice of a child. All three virtuosic novels are worth reading if only to enjoy the spell those voices create. In this fine company, Kelman's novel stands out." --"Milwaukee Journal Sentinel"
"In turns funny and tragic. . . . Its message is universal." -"Huffington Post"
"If your patrons liked Roddy Doyle's "Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha" and if they rooted for Jamal Malik in "Slumdog Millionaire," they will love Harri Opuku." --"Library Journal, "starred review
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Review Text

'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
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Review quote

'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 *
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About Stephen Kelman

Stephen Kelman was born in Luton in 1976. After finishing his degree he worked variously as a warehouse operative, a careworker, and in marketing and local government administration. He decided to pursue his writing seriously in 2005, and has completed several feature screenplays since then. Pigeon English is his first novel.
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Rating details

9,693 ratings
3.52 out of 5 stars
5 17% (1,644)
4 37% (3,549)
3 32% (3,089)
2 11% (1,026)
1 4% (385)

Our customer reviews

Found this book hard to put down, really wanted to know what was happening next. Well written. Simple and yet moving. Touching and poignant at times, seen through the child's eyes, but even that can't take the sting from the reality of the situation for the boy as it starts to unwind.show more
by Hana Ellis
A story told from the point of view of an 11-year old Ghanaian boy has its distinct rhythm and voice. That for me was the strongest point of the novel. However, the introduction of a pigeon sharing its divine thoughts with me the reader spoilt half the fun - was it done to justify the title? Asweh, pigeons should have no voice in modern fiction.show more
by blazej aksamitek
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