Shadow
Morpurgo, Michael and Birmingham, Christian
Published by HarperCollins, 2010
Shadow is a very special Springer Spaniel. We meet her first as a sick and hungry stray, befriending Aman and his mother as they hide in a cave in Afghanistan. But she goes on to show her metal as they follow a long and tortuous journey to come to England. When it turns out that Shadow is actually a brave and resourceful sniffer dog for the U.K. Army in Afghanistan, she must be left behind as Aman and his mother continue their journey - a journey so terrible and fraught with danger that reading about it makes one ashamed of human-kind. Once in Manchester with his uncle and his family, Aman quickly makes friends and learns English. Matt is his particular friend, and they play football on a team. But six years later, Aman and his mother are brutally removed and taken to Yarl's Wood Detention Centre as their request for asylum has been rejected. Matt's grandfather goes to visit them in Yarl's Wood, and it is on this visit that we learn in retrospect of Aman and his mum's terrible life before coming to Manchester. Brutality, poverty, betrayal and unimaginable conditions all come into it, and Aman and his mother know only too well that they are about to be deported back to these same conditions. Matt and his grandfather, a retired journalist, develop a plan to keep them here, and, after a difficult day of protesting with hundreds of people outside Yarl's Wood, manage to do just that - and Aman is re-united with Shadow too. Neither the British immigration service nor Yarl's Wood come out of this well, and the book is something of a polemic against detaining refugee children in what amounts to a prison. It is, however, immensely readable. We realise that Aman's mother may never recover completely from her terrible experiences, but Aman, with help from Matt and his other friends, will grow up strong and resilient. Soft-focus black and white illustrations add a great deal to the story.
Age: 10+