The Ghosts and Jamal

Publisher: Hope Road Publishing

Thirteen-year-old Jamal wakes one day to find that all the other inhabitants of his West African village have been killed. He alone has survived, his hut being some way from everyone else’s. He surveys the destruction around him, trying to make sense of it. Then he packs his copy of the Qur’an and sets off in search of food and safety.

This is a powerful and moving story, set in a violent world and perceived through innocent eyes. When Jamal finds the lethal gas canister responsible for the carnage, he presumes the wisps of yellow gas to be soul-seeking ghosts. He concludes that he survived because they were scared off by the evil spirits that he knows possess him – the spirits that sometimes cause him to twitch and fall unconscious.

Throughout the book, ignorance about the epilepsy which causes Jamal’s regular fits makes him a target for prejudice and suspicion. Even well-intentioned medics and humanitarian volunteers who try to help him are guilty of a fundamental failure to understand the implications of the condition for a boy in Jamal’s position (naively instructing him to keep his medicine stored in a fridge).

This is a beautiful, mesmerising book, its harrowing nature both tempered and augmented by the fact that it is told from Jamal’s perspective of youthful simplicity. It does not end with tidy answers, but rather leaves the reader with uncomfortable questions about a world which can allow such intolerable inequality and brutality.

More books like this

Rosie Loves Jack

Author: Mel Darbon

Sixteen-year-old Rosie (who has Down’s syndrome) is devastated when circumstances separate her from boyfriend Jack (who has some brain injury-related anger management issues). An absorbing read with a powerful and convincing affection at its centre.

Read more about Rosie Loves Jack

A Storm of Strawberries

Author: Jo Cotterill

Twelve-year-old Darby is excited – it is the weekend of the family's chocolate hunt. However, beloved sister Kaydee has suddenly brought home a friend for the weekend. Plus her parents (who run the family's strawberry farm) seem distracted, increasingly preoccupied with news that a major storm is brewing. Does no one realise how important the event is to Dar…

Read more about A Storm of Strawberries

Share this book with your friends

Use our Bookfinder to discover the perfect children's books for every age...