Boy 87 by Ele Fountain


A harrowing tale that is set in the real world.  Regardless how bad the lives of certain children within the UK, Boy 87 presents the story of Shif: a boy whose life is turned upside down.

Shif is a bright boy who enjoys his simple life.  Excelling at school, dreaming big and bonding with his best friend Bini.  Although his father has passed away, Shif and his family care for each other and he is surrounded by kindness. Sadly, life decides to cause havoc.  Shif, like all young people, isn’t fully aware of the political landscape of his nation despite it impacting on him.  A mistake after dark starts the ripple that ultimately leads to the gripping opening: a capsizing boat filled with refugees.

Starting the story at the point of the capsizing and leaving the reader to explore how Shif came to this point is an excellent choice by the author.  The fact that the journey that Bini and Shif go on is heartbreaking means that when we revisit the opening scene it is actually a scene of extreme hope.

Cleverly, Ele Fountain doesn’t pinpoint the nations involved meaning that the details won’t age what is a timeless story that sadly will be as relevant today as it was 20 years ago and, even sadder, 20 years in the future.


Now for the teacher bit.  Personally I think a subject like this doesn’t need to be turned into activities to do with a class.  Due to the powerful nature of the content it is best to combine it with other texts such as The Journey to develop a better understanding of these global issues.  If that isn’t what what education for then I don’t know what is.

A story that I’ll carry with me for my life. Utterly compelling, utterly entertaining, utterly human.


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