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BfK Rising Talent 2011

Below, left to right: Sita Brahmachari, Christopher Hill, Nicola Killen, Alison Murray, Anna Perera, Elen Caldecott and Graham Baker-Smith.

This and their individual photos by Martin Salter (

together part of the week and the impact of bereavement) into a humorous,


packed plot with sensitivity and a light hand. Her second novel, How Ali Ferguson Saved Houdini, came out of her wonderings as to whether it is possible to keep a zoo in a small terraced house. The resulting plot makes for an engaging comic caper that races fluently along, again with an emphasis on friendship and family life. Her latest book, Operation Eiffel Tower, about children trying to get their separated parents back together, is just as action packed while also dealing sensitively with this difficult and painful topic.

Older readers Irfan Master

Shortlisted for The Water- stone’s Children’s Book Prize, Irfan Master’s A Beautiful Lie set in India in 1947 at the time of Partition has its genesis in his family history, listening to his grandfather speak of ‘those times’. 13-year-old Moslem boy Bilal becomes increasingly aware of an atmosphere of tension and discord in the market and on the streets and he has heard Nehru on the

wireless talking about the partition of India. But Bilal’s father, who is dying, cannot bear the idea that India might be divided. His son (rather omnipotently, in the way of children) resolves to protect him from the truth, fearing that it might kill him, even printing false pages of the local newspaper to hide the ravages of unrest from his father. This tragi-comic situation (rather reminiscent of Wolfgang Becker’s 2003 film Goodbye Lenin) means that Bilal has a complicated relationship with the truth and uneasily confesses at his mother’s grave to being a liar and deceiver. Of course there can be no happy ending but Bilal’s love and care for his father is touchingly told in a rich and accessible narrative. A beautifully pitched example of post-colonial writing, Irfan Master’s first person narrative (which recalls indigenous culture in the oral tradition of India) uses language flexibly incorporating Hindi terms. Whether this ‘rising talent’ stays with such personal historical themes or not, he is a writer with much to offer.

Gregory Hughes’s debut novel, Unhooking the Moon, made an instant impact, winning the Booktrust Teenage Prize 2010, and is particularly memorable for its engaging portrait of 12-year-old Canadian Bob’s little sister Marie-Claire,

nicknamed ‘The Rat’. Bob lives with his father who drinks too much and the Rat who has occasional fits. The trio work well together and the opening chapters of the book are poignant in the vibrancy of the rich family life they create together despite Dad’s underlying emotional fragility and the Rat’s borderline behaviour.

Then Dad dies and Bob fears that he will not be able to keep his sister safe in an institution. The newly orphaned pair leave Winnipeg for New York, in search of their only relative, an uncle they have never met. Most of their encounters on their epic journey and in the Big Apple turn out for the good although sure enough one of them is with someone who turns out to be a ‘godamn paedophile’ from whom Bob must rescue his sister. Both the narrator of this story and the Rat’s careful protector, Bob positions himself in relation to his intensely charismatic yet vulnerable sibling with tact, love and diplomacy, often setting aside his own needs. The bond between them in this beautifully adept story is memorable. Hughes’s capacity to write so insightfully and sensitively about this non-traditional family promises well for further novels that will venture boldly into little explored terrain.

Gregory Hughes

The winner of the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize 2011, Sita Brahmachari’s unusual debut novel Artichoke Hearts is about the process of dying. 12-year- old Mira’s grandmother, Nana Josie, has a terminal illness and her family experience with her each stage of the trajectory to death. As a counterpoint to this intense and unflinching account of

Sita Brahmachari

how a dying woman faces her end and says goodbye to the world, her friends and her family, we have Mira’s response to this inevitable loss, her growing strength and ability to occupy her own place on the earth more confidently. Along the way Mira is helped by a creative writing class in which exploration and discussions of all kinds are encouraged. Nana has lived an unconventional life and her quirkiness and

Books for Keeps No.187 March 2011 5

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