Cath Howe chooses a book that vividly depicts the human capacity to endure.
The book I wish I’d written is The Garbage King by Elizabeth Laird. Set in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, it is the story of two boys, one from a background of affluence and the other left destitute by the death of his mother. Their destinies collide when they meet in an urban graveyard and become unlikely allies. As the story develops, they learn from each other.
From the outset, the reader becomes hugely invested in both characters in this pacey and exciting plot. Through the dual perspectives, the author creates points of tension where we really feel the risks to the safety of both characters and respond with empathy to the limited choices they face.
Elizabeth Laird says Addis Ababa is her favourite city in the world. Her great skill is in bringing the place so vividly alive for a reader who may never go there. There is a wild spirit in all her books tethered to an honest depiction of complex challenges in young people’s lives. Life on the street is rendered with an unflinching eye for the struggles these boys face simply to survive.
She depicts our human capacity to endure so vividly that I will always reread this story myself and recommend it to young readers.
Cath Howe’s latest book, How to Be Me, is published by Nosy Crow, 978-1788005975, £6.99 pbk.
The Garbage King by Elizabeth Laird is published by Macmillan Children’s Books, 978-1509802951, £6.99 pbk.