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Boy 87

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  645 ratings  ·  107 reviews

The story of a refugee: one child's journey stands for the journeys of many and the hopes of even more

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 j

Kindle Edition, 224 pages
Published April 5th 2018 by Pushkin Children's Books
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Average rating 4.13  · 
Rating details
 ·  645 ratings  ·  107 reviews

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This was a book I think I wanted to like more than I actually did. I think it's a perfect book for its target audience, especially in how it tackles some really difficult themes and real-world conflicts through the lens of the child main character. However, in comparison to some of the other very powerful books on the same or similar subjects, this book just felt weakly written.

Shif, is a clever and resourceful, but timid boy, living in an unnamed Middle Eastern country affected by government c
Shaye Miller
Jul 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As I’ve read a number of refugee stories over the last couple years, I’m amazed at just how different each one is (and just how much more I learn about each unique situation that so many face as they attempt to escape terrifying lives in their countries of origin). In this story, 14-year-old Shif is a bright student who has just recently discovered the truth of his father’s disappearance many years ago. Now he faces a potentially cruel introduction to the armed services, being called a traitor t ...more
Katy Noyes
Nov 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Harrowing story of how a young person becomes an immigrant...

A nameless country, a young man and his story of circumstances that conspire to force him into considering leaving his home and family behind.

Shif is 14, and along with his best friend Bini, loves school, chess and maths. After the disappearance/death of his father, with his mother fearing they will be forced into military service and never return, Shif and Bini prepare to flee.

The story takes some rather dark turns, with the two boy
Nichola Grimshaw
A powerful story. I’d be happy to share this with a confident, resilient, secure class of Y6 children, it provides opportunities for rich discussions about poverty and injustice and cruelty, but I’d urge caution - the main character is often in real peril and he experiences the violent loss of people he is close to. Read the whole novel before you think about sharing it with a whole class and watch very closely any child who chooses to read it independently

The violence and death does happen ‘off
Katie Rushworth
Feb 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed reading this book and getting to know the characters but i feel that the ending was very rushed and i still wanted too find out more about them and about what happened too them
it was ok
Prince William Public Libraries
Rufgee 87 is the heartbreaking and inspirational story of Shif, his best friend, Bini, and their journey to Europe as refugees escaping military conscription in their home country.

The story is fast-paced and told in a spare, but compelling language. The reader is immediately drawn into Shif’s impoverished but full life as a young student with a sharp mind and love of beating his best friend, Bini, at chess. In Shif’s home country it’s common practice for teens to join the military and serve a m
Rachel Churcher
Aug 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review is also available on my blog, Unsupervised in a Bookstore .

This is a short and deceptively simple book, following fourteen-year-old Shif as he makes the dangerous journey from his home in Africa to find safety in Europe. The plot is straightforward, and the first-person narration is pared-back, childlike, and sincere. At first glance, the storytelling feels simple, but there is just enough here to allow the reader to connect with Shif, and to experience the frightening events of t
Feb 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pushkin, a2, 2018
Shif, a young boy in a nameless but presumably Middle Eastern country, flees to avoid conscription. It's the start of a long journey to what he hopes will be freedom in England, meeting and losing different people along the way. The country is nameless, but the journey echoes those many people, many children, are being forced to take simply to stay alive. This is a heartfelt little book; it would be great to use in a classroom as the start of a discussion about refugees.

Be aware, while the actua
Karen Barber
A simple style with a powerful punch.
Shif is a clever young boy. He has plans for his future and intends to teach after his military training. What he doesn’t know is that so much of what he’s been told is a cover-up.
Shif ends up with soldiers coming for him. He is taken to a detention centre in the desert, manages to escape and has a traumatic time trying to get back to what he knew.
In a straightforward, even simple way we are shown just how easily someone can end up on the wrong side of a regi
Julie Day
May 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It usually takes me at least a week and a half or two weeks to read a book. This one I read in four days. Not because it is a shorter book (which it is) but because it was so good. This is the story of Shif and what happens to him when he is separated forcefully from his family. He realizes he is much stronger than he thought he was and he also has to grow up faster than he thought he would. This is a page-turner and even though it is a book written for middle grade kids, I’m in my 40’s and love ...more
Deena Lipomi
When Shif is forced to flee his home in (most likely) Eritrea to avoid being sent to prison for the "crimes" of his father, he is captured by soldiers, escapes, and tries to continue to journey to Europe without his family or friends. This story illustrates some horrific things that people do to one another in the name of war and politics and can be hard to read at times. The ending is not pat, but does give readers a feel for the realistic upset of one's life. The reading level is right for upp ...more
Gripping novel based on real experiences that illustrates the desperate circumstances that can force one to flee their country and put themselves at the mercy of strangers - some kind, some cruel. Serious stuff written for middle grades - important stuff to understand the constantly growing refugee crises.
Oct 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my first time reading this book and is pretty good and emotional and i like how the author provide some facts about how it felt being in military school back then when they where low on soldiers.
Apr 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some days I really can't believe that people can treat other people with so little regard, so little respect, can care so little about other people. But I remember the height of the "refugee crisis", which I'm putting in quotation marks because it was never a crisis in the sense it was made out to be. People needed help, people desperately needed help and the west couldn't be bothered to do anything besides whine and bitch. It was shocking how many people- people I had known before- suddenly whi ...more
Melinda Brasher
Aug 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was dark. Really dark. I think it's important subject matter, and we need to understand that these things happen, but I found it very difficult to read. I think some kids may be quite traumatized by it. Maybe not. Maybe most kids are immune to violence because of all the violent media, books, etc. But this felt different. This was real-world violence and real-world horror and it wasn't just the oppressive and violent regime: it was the slave traders and the smugglers too. It felt like ...more
Feb 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a short but powerful book following Shif and his best friend Bini as they flee their homeland before they are put into military service. An unnamed country is the scene of the novel, but descriptions and inferences can lead to a country in Africa. The chapters are short, but I often had to pause to catch my breath before moving on.

Other books dealing with the same topic that are worth your time (as this one definitely is) are: A Land of Permanent Goodbyes and Refugee

Refugee 87 is liste
Jayne Catherine pinkett
What an amazing, thought provoking and emotional read. I usually have problems with child narrators but this was done so well. Every child,every adult should read this and feel humbled we don't have to fight for our lives as a refugee. ...more
For years I have tried to get my 14 year old son interested in reading. He enjoyed it when he was younger and we would read to him but it's been a struggle getting him to read since then. So when he came to me and told me that I had to read this book that he had to read for school I agreed to do so. I honestly wasn't expecting too much but he was excited about it and I couldn't tell him no, although I was trying to get other books finished before the end of the year. I am so glad that I agreed t ...more
Helen Wilson
Feb 14, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-2021
Wonderful for 11-14 year olds. Gripping story .
Mar 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tayshas-2021
I read this in two hours flat. I couldn’t put it down. The way the writer had Shif’s voice come off the page grabbed me from the start. The end was a bit rushed but otherwise a strong “first person account” of what it was like to leave your family, not by choice and then escape with nothing but perseverance to push you through. Easy enough read that I’d recommend it for MS grades.
Louise Douglas
Dec 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: e-books
Oh. Em. Gee. This book was filed in the children’s book section of my library app, so I didn’t quite expect what was coming. Not an easy read, for sure, but definitely one that was worth reading. I started this when I got into bed at 10.30pm on boxing day and basically stayed awake til after 2pm because I simply couldn’t put it down.

We start the book with a ship capsizing in the middle of the ocean and a boy struggling to get to the surface. Then no sooner has it started, we rewind back to the b
May 09, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, ya
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
WhatBookNext .com
Shif and his best friend Bini are smart. Smart enough to be put up a class in school. Bini wants to be a doctor and Shif an engineer. They enjoy maths and chess and trying to outdo each other in everything. Life is good.

But life around them is changing. Bini suddenly stops coming to school. Government soldiers are appearing more often in their town, looking for children avoiding compulsory military service. Shif’s mum tells him the truth about his father, who he always thought was dead. The unth
Feb 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Boy 87 addresses the plight of refugees and why people take what we think of as ridiculous risks. It's easy to turn your head away from the stories of boats, often accompanied by dead bodies, that are being washed up on European coasts. I mean, it's never going to happen to you or anyone close to you and why would these people do something which might possibly lead to death? Ele Fountain provides an answer, that the chances of living in some places are zero so the chances of escaping it are a li ...more
Stephen Connor
Set in an unnamed country, Shif and best friend Bini plan to escape in order to avoid military service - but they don’t act quickly enough.

Sent to prison in the middle of the desert, they are left in a container with a variety of ‘deserters’ - people who have spoken against the government and punished. They are left with the decision of whether to escape and risk their lives, or stay and meet certain death.

Shif and Bini’s friendship is a highlight here, all knowing looks and unspoken understan
C Grannell
Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: summer-19
Imagine a dystopian novel set in a world where all students have to attend military school after high school. It is rumored that some people would never return. Shif is taken to military school at 14, since he was advanced in his classes. But he arrives in a prison where they keep anyone who may be a danger to the government in shipping containers in the dessert. It is an oven during the day and freezing at night. If there is any chance to escape, your only hope is a smuggler who will charge $50 ...more
Apr 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A powerful read not least - almost ironically - because of the "ordinary" voice of the narrator - a person just like you or me, or the reader, and whilst the story is clearly set in another country, the exoticism isn't built up or stressed, thereby making it easier to feel connected and able to imagine oneself if the narrator's shoes. I would include it alongside Laird's Welcome to Nowhere, though Boy 87 is perhaps a bit easier / less harrowing for younger readers. A special nod to Kate Milner, ...more
May 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a brilliant book. Very hard-hitting, thought provoking and emotional. Definitely a good introduction book for older children who are asking questions about why there are refugees and why they are leaving their country. The things the main character goes through are HORRIBLE, but I'm sure other refugees experience worse situations. I was really drawn to the characters and their lives, wanting a happy ending. I did think the story was really open ended, I need another book to see what happens ...more
Sarah Tate
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved the use of the flash forward at the outset; we know where the protagonist is heading, but the journey is what matters. It strikes the right balance between descriptive and emotional - I didn't feel like the writer was manipulating my emotions, but pathos just spills from the pages.

The writing style makes it accessible to older children/young teens, but it's a great read for adults too. I was absolutely enthralled by this book, and consumed it in just 2 nights.

Dark, though-provoking, high
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Based on actual experiences 2 7 Jul 12, 2019 10:52PM  

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Ele Fountain worked as an editor in children’s publishing where she was responsible for launching and nurturing the careers of many prize-winning and bestselling authors.

She lived in Addis Ababa for several years, where she was inspired to write Boy 87, her debut novel. Ele lives in what she describes as a “not quite falling down house” in Hampshire with her husband, two young daughters and lots o

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