Pigeon English

Pigeon English

Lying in front of Harrison Opoku 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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  • Format: eBook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547501680

  • ISBN-10: 0547501684

  • Pages: 272

  • Price: $9.99

  • Publication Date: 07/19/2011

  • Carton Quantity: 1

Stephen Kelman

Stephen Kelman

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 Man Booker and  Desmond Elliot prizes and has been published in twenty countries.
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  • reviews
    Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize


    "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


    "Remarkable . . . Kelman’s creation is plausible, convincing and often enchanting." —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


    "Pigeon English in a category beyond genre . . . This [is a] work of deep sympathy and imagination."—Boston Globe


    "Continually surprising and endearing . . . There's a sweetnees here that's irresistible." -- Washington Post


    "Ingenious . . . Pigeon English packs a wallop." -- Cleveland Plain Dealer


    "The mystery is secondary to the pleasures of listening to Harri as he prattles on winningly in a mix of street slang and Ghanaian expressions." —Christian Science Monitor


    "Pigeon English is a fascinating look at a culture pushed to the margins by a nation’s economic and empathic indifference." —Time Out Chicago


    "A startlingly assured piece of work . . .With a very light touch, Kelman makes us view from a new perspective the kind of story we’re used to reading about in the newspapers . . . Kelman is a writer to watch." —Mystery Scene


    "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)


    "Fantastic . . . it seems hard to believe this is the author’s first book." —Guardian (UK)


    "Rich with lingo, energy, and occasional terror, Pigeon English is a stark and funny look at life in London’s rough housing projects. A compelling anatomy of our inner cities, Stephen Kelman’s debut novel navigates the hectic, modern world while coping with its most violent accompaniments." —Tony D’Souza, author of Whiteman and Mule

  • excerpts


    You could see the blood. It was darker than you thought.

    It was all on the ground outside Chicken Joe’s. It just felt


     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:


     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


     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


     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


     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.


     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?

Available Resources

Related Categories

  • Format: eBook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547501680

  • ISBN-10: 0547501684

  • Pages: 272

  • Price: $9.99

  • Publication Date: 07/19/2011

  • Carton Quantity: 1

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