Pigeon English

( 7 )

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 ...

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Pigeon English

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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 London’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.

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Editorial Reviews

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The high towers of a London housing project are a world away from Ghana, but 11-year-old Harrison Opuku grabs hold of his new immigrant life with unchecked curiosity and excitement. Surrounded by family and friends, he is a carefree young boy until he witnesses the murder of a classmate. The bloody scene and the mother broken by grief soon become so indelible in their minds that Hari and his best friend begin their own investigation. Armed with makeshift equipment and all the tips they can absorb from CSI reruns, they race to unmask the murderer the police are unable to find, never thinking that their amateur detective work will bring them face-to-face with a killer. Even as Hari is searching for a murderer, he's also busy being a young boy—running track, wooing his first girlfriend, and befriending a wild pigeon. But the sweet innocence of his boyish pursuits is threatened when he is tempted by the camaraderie of a tough local gang and finds himself tested in ways he had never imagined.

Vibrant and pitch-perfect, Hari's voice eloquently captures his world, rendering it with a singular grit and innocence. With his combination of street smarts and childlike naïveté, this narrator will remain in our imaginations long after the last page has been turned. From its quiet opening to its shattering climax, Pigeon English is a celebration of resilience and wonder. Hari's miniature yet limitless world invites us to expand our own in one of the most accomplished and profoundly affecting novels of the year.

Publishers Weekly
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)
Kirkus Reviews

A charming narrative voice energizes this lively first novel, which has brought enthusiastic reviews, healthy sales and a movie contract to its young British author.

Eleven-year-old Harrison ("Harri") Opuku has migrated with his mother and older sister Lydia from Ghana (where his father, baby brother and grandmother remain) to a "council estate" (i.e., public housing in a tower block) in the south of London. Gangs of teenagers from neighborhood estates prowl the violent streets, but Harri responds to their threats by joining forces with a friend (Jordan) as "detectives" resolved to find those responsible for the fatal stabbing of another boy. Kelman quickly gives the reader emotional identification with Harri, who is mischievous (he loves tormenting the huffy, whiny Lydia), a romantic goof (who hopes against hope that his blond schoolmate Poppy will acknowledge his existence), energetic (he's locally renowned for his speed) and a verbal athlete who speaks in a lively multilingual argot festooned with vivid, funny locutions. When he solemnly grouses, "In England there's a hell of different words for everything," or pronounces everything along the spectrum that runs from delightful to alarming "hutious," there's just no resisting the kid. Unhappily, even though the aforementioned slaying (based on the true story of the 2000 murder of a Nigerian boy) is given central stage early on, the story is depressingly underplotted and really isn't much of a novel. Its title also refers (too coyly) to the pigeon that lands on Harri's window ledge, which becomes a kind of protector and exemplar, clumsily signifying both freedom and flight. And when, late in the book, the bird itself swoops in to share the narrative, we sense how desperate Kelman is to fill up pages.

Even a kid as feisty and ingratiating as Harri can overstay his welcome. A pity, because brief snatches of his embryonic wit, street smarts and survival instincts are about as hutious as it gets.

Ron Charles
…charm and peril are on full display in Stephen Kelman's first novel…[a] mixture of ridiculous observations and accidental insights makes Pigeon English continually surprising and endearing…Whether [Harrison's] explaining the rules of farting or the tragedy of gang killings, there's a sweetness here that's irresistible.
—The Washington Post
From the Publisher

"This 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

"Continually surprising and endearing ... There’s a sweetness here that’s irresistible."
Washington Post

"[A] work of deep sympathy and imagination."
Boston Globe

"Enchanting."
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"Winning [and] ingenious. . . Pigeon English packs a wallop."
Cleveland Plain Dealer

"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

"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

"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."
The Times (UK)

"Adapting the narrative voice of Holden Caulfield from J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher In The Rye ... Pigeon English convincingly evokes life on the edge ... The humour, the resilience, the sheer ebullience of its narrator—a hero for our times—should ensure the book becomes, deservedly, a classic."
Mail on Sunday (UK)

"This exuberant novel sparkles with wonder and delight ... A vivid snapshot of contemporary urban childhood, it’s Harri’s voice, brilliantly captured and entirely convincing, which makes this book such a joy."
Daily Mail (UK)

"Filled with energy, humour and compassion, Pigeon English is a gut-wrenchingly sad novel that makes you laugh out loud."
Guardian (UK)

"Pigeon English is a fascinating look at a culture pushed to the margins by a nation’s economic and empathic indifference; Harri is our immediately likable tour guide."
Time Out Chicago

"Kelman’s [debut] has a powerful story, a pacy plot and engaging characters. It paints a vivid portrait with honesty, sympathy and wit . . . It is horrifying, tender and funny . . . Pigeon English will be read by millions . . . Parents who do their children’s homework are in for a treat."
Telegraph (UK)

"Writing in a child’s voice is always a high-wire act . . . Those who have pulled it off range from J.D. Salinger to Emma Donoghue. Kelman takes it one step further . . . The result is a tour de force . . . Funny and poignant, Pigeon English is fired with an uncontainable spirit, a rare distillate of boyhood optimism and adult wisdom."
Maclean’s (Canada)

"Kelman’s command of Harrison’s innocent all-seeing eyes makes for an engaging read."
The Daily Beast

"Funny and poignant . . . What might be described as Diary of a Wimpy Kid meets Trainspotting . . . Undeniable."
Toronto Star (Canada)

"Like Harper Lee’s Scout Finch and Miriam Toews’ Thebes Troutman, Stephen Kelman’s Harri is an original who seems to breathe real oxygen. Watching Harri’s exploits will make a reader want to laugh, marvel and cheer, but also cringe in fear . . . To be moved to care this deeply for a fictional character is a rare experience . . . The effect is one of profound transcendence."
Winnipeg Free Press (Canada)

"Told with humour, despite the gritty subject matter and setting . . . Pigeon English charms its way into some hard places."
Financial Times (UK)

"Harri’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."
BookPage

"Authentic and audacious . . . Harri is . . .tantalisingly sympathetic."
Scotsman (UK)

"Imaginative, gut-wrenching and powerful . . . It’s a window on a world many of us will never experience (thankfully), and it is beautifully and intelligently written."
Edmonton Journal (Canada)

"A charming narrative voice energizes this lively first novel . . . festooned with vivid, funny locutions . . . There’s just no resisting the kid . . . his embryonic wit, street smarts and survival instincts are about as hutious as it gets."
Kirkus

"Hilarious, touching and terrifying by turns . . . In his evocation of the dreaming that brings many immigrants to cities all over the world and the danger and despair they face there, Kelman has crafted a book that soars."
Chronicle Herald (Canada)

"Laced with humour, innocence and authenticity."
The Independent (UK)

"Prepare to fall in love with Harri . . . [A] fresh, funny and ultimately moving story of 11-year-old Ghanaian immigrant to London."
Shelf Awareness, starred review

"There is an irrepressible joy in Harri . . . Harri is a hero for all ages . . . He worms his way into your affections and leaves you breathless . . . Pigeon English is a mesmerizing tale of naïveté and discovery that has us rooting on the sidelines, hoping that Harri will triumph."
The Rover (Canada)

"The strength of this debut novel lies in Harri’s voice . . . Teens will appreciate Harri’s winning narration, his child’s-eye view of adult situations, and the rising tension when playing detective becomes a high-stakes matter."
School Library Journal, Adult Books 4 Teens

"Pigeon English has already been hailed as a ‘brilliant’ and ‘deeply moving’ depiction of urban life . . . Far from being a political tract, however, Kelman's book uses Harri to convey a straightforward message about how good can triumph, whatever the odds."
London Evening Standard (UK)

"Well-tuned . . . crisp and mirthful."
Publishers Weekly

"Opoku’s plight is both heart-warming and heartbreaking, as his actions unwittingly speed the inevitable cruel crash of manhood into his quietly contented world."
The List (UK), 4 out of 5 stars

"A book both chilling and charming . . . A coming-of age tale that feels achingly accurate."
Globe and Mail (Canada)

"A startingly assured piece of work [with] . . . a level of sensitivity and craftsmanship which few crime novelists can offer. What strikes the reader all the way through is the superb control with which Kelman writes . . . Kelman is a writer to watch."
 —Mystery Scene

"Pigeon English introduces readers to a Dickensian London circa multicultural now. A violent and riveting coming of age story, Stephen Kelman’s debut novel also contains well-timed moments of comedy, affecting family drama, and just enough hopefulness."
Vancouver Sun (Canada)

"A powerful and impressive novel . . . Kelman knows the world of boys—their language, their humour, their thoughts—and Harri’s voice is dazzlingly authentic."
—Clare Morrall, author of the Booker-shortlisted Astonishing Splashes of Colour and The Man Who Disappeared

"Rich with lingo, energy, and occasional terror, Pigeon English is a stark and funny look at life in London’s rough housing projects. After another hutious gangland chooking, eleven-year-old Harri is on the case, tracking the murderer for donkey hours while impressing Poppy with his bo-styles. A compelling anatomy of our inner cities."
—Tony D’Souza, author of Whiteman and Mule

Library Journal
Ten-year-old Harrison Opuku has recently immigrated to London from Ghana. Harri is a joyous child who loves everyone—the pigeon on his balcony, his baby sister still in Ghana, the girl who sits next to him in class, his parents, his teachers, and the neighborhood thief with an appealing dog. Less easy to like, let alone love, are the members of the Dell Farm Crew, a local gang whose threats make every school day a challenge. When a classmate is murdered, Harri and his friend decide to discover the killer. As this charming boy gets closer to a solution, readers will feel their adrenaline start pumping, hoping Harri will succeed and remain safe. VERDICT Narrated by Harri in a laugh-out-loud combination of Ghanaian and British slang, this first novel places readers in the London of large housing projects where legal and illegal immigrants struggle to make new lives for themselves, where crime is a way of life, and where a good-hearted boy is an anomaly. 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. [See Prepub Alert, 1/17/11.]—Andrea Kempf, Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, KS
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547500607
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 7/19/2011
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,140,423
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Kelman grew up in the housing projects of Luton, England. He has worked as a careworker, a warehouse operative, in marketing, and in local government administration. Pigeon English was shortlisted for the Desmond Elliot Prize and was named a “best first novel of 2011”* in his native England; it will be published in twenty countries.

*Waterstone’s bookstore

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Read an Excerpt

MARCH

You could see the blood. It was darker than you thought.
It was all on the ground outside Chicken Joe’s. It just felt crazy.
 Jordan: ‘I’ll give you a million quid if you touch it.’
 Me: ‘You don’t have a million.’
 Jordan: ‘One quid then.’
 You wanted to touch it but you couldn’t get close enough. There was a line in the way:

POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS

 If you cross the line you’ll turn to dust.
 We weren’t allowed to talk to the policeman, he had to concentrate for if the killer came back. I could see the chains hanging from his belt but I couldn’t see the gun.
 The dead boy’s mamma was guarding the blood. She wanted it to stay, you could tell. The rain wanted to come and wash the blood away but she wouldn’t let it. She wasn’t even crying, she was just stiff and fierce like it was her job to scare the rain back up into the sky. A pigeon was looking for his chop. He walked right in the blood. He was even sad as well, you could tell where his eyes were all pink and dead.
*
• *

The flowers were already bent. There were pictures of the dead boy wearing his school uniform. His jumper was green.
 My jumper’s blue. My uniform’s better. The only bad thing about it is the tie, it’s too scratchy. I hate it when they’re scratchy like that.
 There were bottles of beer instead of candles and the dead boy’s friends wrote messages to him. They all said he was a great friend. Some of the spelling was wrong but I didn’t mind. His football boots were on the railings tied up by their laces. They were nearly new Nikes, the studs were proper metal and everything.
 Jordan: ‘Shall I t’ief them? He don’t need ’em no more.’
 I just pretended I didn’t hear him. Jordan would never really steal them, they were a million times too big. They looked too empty just hanging there. I wanted to wear them but they’d never fit.

Me and the dead boy were only half friends, I didn’t see him very much because he was older and he didn’t go to my school. He could ride his bike with no hands and you never even wanted him to fall off. I said a prayer for him inside my head. It just said sorry. That’s all I could remember. I pretended like if I kept looking hard enough I could make the blood move and go back in the shape of a boy. I could bring him back alive that way. It happened before, where I used to live there was a chief who brought his son back like that. It was a long time ago, before I was born. Asweh, it was a miracle. It didn’t work this time.
 I gave him my bouncy ball. I don’t need it anymore, I’ve got M ve more under my bed. Jordan only gave him a pebble he found on the floor.
 Me: ‘That doesn’t count. It has to be something that belonged to you.’
 Jordan: ‘I ain’t got nothing. I didn’t know we had to bring a present.’
 I gave Jordan a strawberry Chewit to give to the dead boy, then I showed him how to make a cross. Both the two of us made a cross. We were very quiet. It even felt important.
We ran all the way home. I beat Jordan easily. I can beat everybody, I’m the fastest in Year 7. I just wanted to get away before the dying caught us.

The buildings are all mighty around here. My tower is as high as the lighthouse at Jamestown. There are three towers all in a row: Luxembourg House, Stockholm House and Copenhagen House. I live in Copenhagen House. My flat is on floor 9 out of 14. It’s not even hutious, I can look from the window now and my belly doesn’t even turn over.
I love going in the lift, it’s brutal, especially when you’re the only one in there. Then you could be a spirit or a spy.
You even forget the pissy smell because you’re going so fast.
 It’s proper windy at the bottom like a whirlpool. If you stand at the bottom where the tower meets the ground and put your arms out, you can pretend like you’re a bird. You can feel the wind try to pick you up, it’s nearly like flying.
 Me: ‘Hold your arms out wider!’
 Jordan: ‘They’re as wide as I can get ’em! This is so gay,
I’m not doing it no more!’
 Me: ‘It’s not gay, it’s brilliant!’
 Asweh, it’s the best way to feel alive. You only don’t want the wind to pick you up, because you don’t know where it will drop you. It might drop you in the bushes or the sea.

In England there’s a hell of different words for everything.
It’s for if you forget one, there’s always another one left over. It’s very helpful. Gay and dumb and lame mean all the same. Piss and slash and tinkle mean all the same (the same as greet the chief). There’s a million words for a bulla.
When I came to my new school, do you know what’s the first thing Connor Green said to me?
 Connor Green: ‘Have you got happiness?’
 Me: ‘Yes.’
 Connor Green: ‘Are you sure you’ve got happiness?’
 Me: ‘Yes.’
 Connor Green: ‘But are you really sure?’
 Me: ‘I think so.’
 He kept asking me if I had happiness. He wouldn’t stop.
In the end it just vexed me. Then I wasn’t sure. Connor Green was laughing, I didn’t even know why. Then Manik told me it was a trick.
 Manik: ‘He’s not asking if you’ve got happiness, he’s asking if you’ve got a penis. He says it to everyone. It’s just a trick.’
 It only sounds like happiness but really it means a penis.
 Ha-penis.
 Connor Green: ‘Got ya! Hook, line and sinker!’
 Connor Green is always making tricks. He’s just a confusionist.
That’s the first thing you learn about him. At least I didn’t lose. I do have a penis. The trick doesn’t work if it’s true.

Some people use their balconies for hanging washing or growing plants. I only use mine for watching the helicopters. It’s a bit dizzy. You can’t stay out there for more than one minute or you’ll turn into an icicle. I saw X-Fire painting his name on the wall of Stockholm House. He didn’t know I could see him. He was proper quick and the words still came out dope-fine. I want to write my own name that big but the paint in a can is too dangerous, if you get it on yourself it never washes off,
even forever.
 The baby trees are in a cage. They put a cage around the tree to stop you stealing it. Asweh, it’s very crazy. Who’d steal a tree anyway? Who’d chook a boy just to get his Chicken Joe’s?

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Interviews & Essays

What inspired you to write Pigeon English?
Pigeon English is my response to the epidemic of child-on-child violence, specifically knife crime, which affects many poor, urban areas of Britain, particularly in inner-city London. Every week another teenager is stabbed to death, and this only encourages the view of Britain's children as feral and beyond hope, their lives bleak and blighted by violence. I wanted to address the subjects of child-on-child violence, immigration, and social breakdown in a more intimate way than is depicted in the news media; not to sermonize or romanticize but to present the lives of these characters as they are. I also wanted to show how the diversity of influences and experiences that come as a result of multiculturalism can only enrich us all.
I grew up in a housing project much like the one in the book; my experience of that was as much positive as negative, and I wanted Pigeon English to reflect that. The kids in the book are in one sense victims — of deprivation or crime or a lack of opportunities — but they don't view themselves as victims. They're full of life, vibrant and funny and resilient. In writing from a child's perspective I was able explore my themes without exploiting them. They could form the backdrop for what is at heart a universal story, a coming-of-age tale for modern times. Everyone remembers being eleven — the age of Harri, my narrator — learning the rules of the playground, making friends and enemies, exploring the boundaries of adulthood. Harri doesn't analyze the forces at play in his world, he just gets on with the business of living, and he does this with an exuberance that defies the darkness of the world around him. The book has been described as his love letter to the world, and that's the one thing I want readers to take away from it — it's not a lament of frustrated lives as much as a celebration of life itself.
Why the title?
Pigeon English is a play on the term "pidgin English," pidgin being a simplified hybrid language that develops between groups of people who don't share a common tongue, and that allows them to communicate with each other. In our increasingly globalized world, where economic migration is so widespread and people from different cultural, racial, and religious backgrounds are either obliged to or are choosing to work and live together, it is more important than ever that we find a means to communicate, a glue to bind those diverse elements into an integrated whole. That glue is our shared humanity, and just as Harri is a symbol of that — a recent immigrant from Africa to London who embraces his new home with wide-eyed wonder — so too is the pigeon that visits his balcony. Pigeons are found in every corner of the globe. Wherever people are, they seem to follow; they coexist with us either as pests or as the benign background to our everyday lives, depending on your point of view. The pigeon in the book poses the question: how do we differ and how are we alike? The bearded stranger you pass on the street, the woman who answers your tech support call in an unfamiliar accent: are these people in any way an obstacle to your way of life, or are they simply fellow travelers sharing a common path, a path trod by all of us?
Pigeon English portrays the lives of children from an underprivileged section of society. How do you think a child's environment influences his or her experiences, and to what extent does it shape his or her journey to adulthood?
The children in the book all live in the same inner-city housing project, and so they experience the same problems and deprivations. It is a place of few opportunities, where a lack of investment has left an indelible impact not only on the physical environment but on its inhabitants' sense of self-worth and aspiration. Violence and petty crime are prevalent, and drug abuse and alcoholism are visible, present dangers. Positive adult role models are few and far between. When all a child can see are the traps in his or her way, the path to escape becomes that much harder to negotiate. This feeling of being trapped often plays itself out in negative ways: a child's decision to join a gang, for example, is not only born of a need to feel protected in numbers from the perils of the street but also of a desire for kinship and belonging in the face of common frustrations for which they hold the adult world responsible. But these kinships, these bonds forged in adversity, can also be a positive thing. I've spoken of how resilient and vibrant the children in the book are — almost spitefully so, as if they're collectively giving the finger to the adult world, defying it to take away their spirit if it dares — and this resilience is the springboard from which some of these kids, if given the encouragement and provided the opportunity through education, might just leap clear of their difficult beginnings.
In Harri's young world, violence is pervasive. Was this your experience as a child?
I grew up in an environment much like Harri's, amid many of the same problems. Crime, poverty, and violence were and still are commonplace. But for a kid these things felt more abstract than they do for an adult — they were simply part of the background hum of life and didn't seem to possess the power to impinge on the day-to-day business of being a child. When I was Harri's age I used to choose my route home from school based on how I could best avoid the class bully; but that bully wasn't carrying a knife, and the worst I had to fear should I run into him was a punch in the nose. At that time — I was eleven years old in 1987 — Britain did not have such an entrenched gang problem, and whatever threat of violence there was lacked that extreme edge. There wasn't the sense, as there is now, that every encounter with those dark forces would have life-changing or lethal consequences; violence was still something that could be avoided if you were careful and stuck to the rules. And growing up, I didn't have access to the violent entertainment that today's children are exposed to. There was no Internet and no cell phones with video playback, and my TV viewing was restricted. Now, with the availability of violent content through every media channel, it seems as though that inevitable desensitization has occurred, and society appears to be reaping the seeds it has sown.
Who have you discovered lately?
I've recently discovered Patrick Lane, a Canadian poet whose memoir What The Stones Remember [A Discover selection in 2005—Ed.] is an unflinchingly humane account of his recovery from alcoholism. His novel Red Dog, Red Dog is equally incisive and beautifully written, a portrait of a doomed working class family in 1950s British Columbia. I think he's a modern day Steinbeck. My wife has also recently introduced me to Philip Roth, whom I'd never read before. I loved American Pastoral and will read more.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2012

    It was a quick read

    it was ok

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 21, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Prepare To Fall In Love

    Prepare to fall in love. Harrison Opuku bursts off the page and into the reader’s heart. Harri is eleven, a recent immigrant from Ghana. He is now living in England with his mother and sister; his father, grandmother and baby sister 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 can’t quite believe work. He thinks it is bo-styles; the word for the ultimate cool. He is thrilled by remote control cars, cell phones, and new trainers. Harri’s 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 Harri’s 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 is spot-on for a child growing up in modern England in the housing projects. The language is sometimes rough, and the facts that are commonplace knowledge breathtaking, but through it all, the sweetness of Harri’s 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 has been nominated for the Booker Prize and readers will not be surprised by that fact. This is a stunning, excellent book; the fact that it is a debut novel is almost unimaginable. This book is recommended for all readers.

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  • Posted March 24, 2012

    Not yet finished

    I haven't yet finished this book only having got half way through. But so far, I am really hoping that it gets better. I love the plot and the idea of the book is brilliant...hats off to the author. But for me, it is missing something and to me that something is sunstance. I feel like the chapters are pointless being there because it is just one unchanging story. The main charactor is an 11 year old boy who is relatively new to the country and is finding hard to fit in, he wants to be in the gang but for protection, he doesn't want to be naughty...and I feel for him, but that is a far as it goes. I really wanted to like this book, but right now, I am finding it difficult to pick it back up again...after putting it down. But this is just my oppinion...yours might be different, so I strongly suggest you read it and see what you think.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2011

    A must read!

    Delightful,funny and sad in parts. a great debut! I hope to see more from this author!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2011

    Fantastic!

    I don't know when I've been so enamoured of a character!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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