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Boy 87

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  420 ratings  ·  65 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

Kindle Edition, 224 pages
Published April 5th 2018 by Pushkin Children's Books
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Average rating 4.12  · 
Rating details
 ·  420 ratings  ·  65 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
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 ...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
Prince William Public Library System
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
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 ...more
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
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 ...more
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.
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.
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 the
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
Feb 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: a2, pushkin, 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
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
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
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
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 ...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
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 ...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,
Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is an excellent book for students and adults to open a discussion about the world's refugees and their dream to live in safety and follow their dreams. A 14 year old and his best friend are taken from their families in the middle of the night by the nation's military. Locked in a storage container, his fellow prisoners encourage him to escape and cross the border. Some have been imprisoned for years with no contact with their families. This story is not only about the escape, but ...more
Lisa Bentley
Boy 87is another of the books that has been nominated for the Carnegie medal. This book packs an impressive punch. It is the story of a young boy called Shif and his tale of survival from a dictatorship. We travel with him through his travails and feel his pain and loss alongside of him. Equally we feel his hope.

I believe thatBoy 87should have been shortlisted for the Carnegie medal. It shows younger people the harsh realities of life and opens their eyes to a world that they may never have
Julie Esanu
Narrator Damian Lynch deftly navigates readers through Shif's harrowing ordeal as flees his country (unnamed though likely African) in order to escape recruitment as a child soldier. This contemporary examination of survival in the face of violence will capture readers' attention. However, readers need additional information (in the form an author's note about research and sources) given that child migration is a "deadly journey," often involving abuse, detention, human trafficking, and ...more
Dec 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was recommended this book by my daughter who had read it in school. I throughly enjoyed it up until the ending even though I had tears in my eyes for most of it. The reason for the four stars and not five is that the ending seemed a little rushed. I quite enjoy it when some books leave little questions unanswered so the reader can come up with their own theories however this leaves the majority of the book unanswered and therefore leaves one feeling quite disappointed.
Sep 09, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a heart-breaking story of a refugee boy looking for safety from his country. That he is forced to leave his family, as his father was forced to leave, when he hasn't done anything wrong is crazy. The people he travels with and those he meets on his journey are in just as bad straights as he is, if not worse. What would happen if all countries were as depressed as this one: where would refugees go then?
Mikaela Desforges
Very good book. Read this book because it arrived in my BookTrust library pack. Very vivid pictures, some traumatic, definitely not for the more fragile year 7s I have. It certainly makes you think about the starting points of some immigrants. My images of Shif are like a real boy and not some character in a book. I will be looking at getting Refugee 87 to read and for my school library when it is released later this year.
Sep 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I actually enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would, and would recommend to any new YA readers. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read and written well. My only issue is it’s not one of those books where you can sit and read it for ages, because it lost something to it, and I struggled to connect to that characters. Nonetheless, the story is emotional and inspiring, so I’d say I mainly read it for just the story and not because I cared about the fate of the characters.
Dec 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Appropriate for middle school students. Students should be encouraged to look up foreign words. They are easy to search online. I agree with another review that mentions that the end is abrupt. I cared enough about Shif, Almaz, and their families to request a sequel. That could tie up what we didn’t get at the sudden ending.
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