fantastic new novel from this acclaimed writerboys being excluded from school along with rap band rivalries ensures a highly topical read,over 50,000 copies sold of Face; over 30,000 of Refugee Boy within one year of publication
Benjamin Zephaniah is probably one of the most high-profile international authors writing today, with an enormous breadth of appeal, equally popular with both adults and children. Most well-known for his performance poetry with a political edge for adults and ground-breaking performance poetry for children, Benjamin also has his own rap/reggae band, and has appeared on desert Island Discs. He is in constant demand internationally to perform his work: he is (he thinks) Nelson Mandela's favourite poet, and is the only Rastafarian poet to be short-listed for the Chairs of Poetry for both Oxford and Cambridge University. His previous novels for Bloomsbury are 'Face' and 'Refugee' Boy'. He has also edited an anthology of poems 'The Bloomsbury Book of Love Poems' . Benjamin lives in East Ham, London.
Gr 9 Up-Rebellious in his East London home and deeply alienated from his alcoholic West Indian father, 15-year-old Ray pops off during class, gets expelled, and joins his best friends, outgoing Prem and contemplative Tyrone, who have also been "excluded" from school. All three are passionate hip-hop lovers who hang out in a small music shop run by a sympathetic Jamaican named Marga Man. After they are jailed following a fight, the headmaster decides to enroll them in an alternative program that allows them to pursue their rap interests. Marga Man uses his music contacts to get them started in a band-the Positive Negatives-and they soon become successful. Unfortunately, they attract the attention of a rival band. Spurred on by a greedy promoter, the rappers engage in a deadly gang fight that both groups later regret. With the promoter in jail, they vow to work together to end the violence. Ray is an appealing and multidimensional character, but many of the others are little more than types. Mirroring the culture of "gangsta rap," some of the dialogue is misogynist (girls are referred to as "bitches"), stereotyped (Marga Man speaks a combination of mainstream and pidgin English), and raw. A mixed bag with a wholesome message.-Jack Forman, Mesa College Library, San Diego Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
"The authority with which the story is written leaves the reader no choice but to be drawn in - and indeed educated - into the world of gangsta rap, with all the appropriate vocabulary. Not for a long time have I read a book with such a 'pick me up again' factor" Independent on Sunday
Zephaniah (Refugee Boy) paints a vivid picture of the hip-hop music scene and related gang warfare in London, but his message to readers is mixed. While attending an alternative school, three reputed trouble makers ("known for their confrontational behaviour") are given the opportunity to develop their music skills and voice their anger against their school system, their parents and other authority figures. Marga Man, the owner of a local music store, helps 15-year-old Ray and his buddies Tyrone and Prem form a band called the Positive Negatives; they release a hit single and the group is soon on the way to international stardom. The price of their success is high, however. Fans of a rival rap band grow vicious. Live concerts performed by the Positive Negatives become breeding grounds for fights, and the band members receive mysterious, recurring threats. On the one hand, the author clearly communicates the boys' commitment to their music and the ill effects of unleashed violence; on the other hand, his account of the three expelled students becoming overnight stars stretches credibility, and the expression of their anger seems to be the only purpose and goal for their music. Although the book features ultra-hip dialogue, romance and action, unfortunately, readers don't get a sense of the boys' characters or their relationships (to one another or to family members and other friends), and will likely remember the violence more than the author's message. Ages 14-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.