The Night Bus Hero by Onjali Q Rauf
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|The Night Bus Hero by Onjali Q Rauf|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Ruth Ng|
|Summary: Thought-provoking and heartwarming, you find yourself rooting for the bully in this story as you watch his transformation.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 304||Date: October 2020|
|Publisher: Orion Children's Books|
|External links: Author's website|
Hector is a bully. Egged on by his two 'friends', he takes other children's sweets, harasses and threatens, plays pranks at school, and gets into trouble at every turn. Yet he finds himself frustrated when something actually isn't his fault, but then he isn't believed as everyone expects him to be telling lies. Nothing seems fair. His parents are barely home, and seem to only care about his perfect sister and his annoying little brother when they are, and his teachers have abandoned him as a lost cause. So what happens when, in trying to tell the truth & fight to be believed, Hector finds himself embroiled with the police; first trying to accuse, and then trying to save a homeless man from his local park?
I think it takes a really, really brave children's author to place a bully as the protagonist in a story. Rauf does it brilliantly, and this is a journey story for Hector as we see him reach inside himself for the true heart of who he is, and turn away from the path he had been falling into. He is your typical troubled kid at the beginning, but Rauf cleverly creates this character who isn't deep-down awful, and who readers will see, and understand, is starting to change. There are still times when you watch his actions in shock, wondering why he is behaving in this way or what he is thinking, but you see how he seems to fall into trouble at times, in an effort to stay 'in' with his so-called friends, or just as situations unfold and pan out. And sometimes it's easier for him to be the bad boy he has been cast as, because no one will believe him when he protests any differently.
There's a lot to make you think, as a reader. Homelessness is something we see all around us, around the world. As a children's story it is a somewhat sanitised version of homelessness, without the absolute desperation, and without the drugs. But it still brings to life some of the characters on the streets, and gives them a voice which I think is important as many children will be growing up just walking past these people in shop doorways without really thinking of what their lives are. You get to experience the soup kitchen through Mei-Li who helps her dad there, and really it is through Mei-Li that Hector finds his way back to the truth of who he is as she bravely challenges him, and refuses to be scared by his behaviour and threats.
I also liked that the story of Hector's redemption is tied up in a mystery within London too, of parts of statues being stolen, and the blame seemingly being directed towards the homeless population. I suspended belief with regards to how the crimes are carried out (the mysterious device that turns off the electricity in just that location sounded a lot like Dumbledore's Deluminator!) But I liked the different London locations that are mentioned, as many are so well known you can picture what's been happening very easily.
The book races towards the conclusion, and it's exciting to read! I was wondering how Hector and Thomas would be able to solve the mystery thefts. The finale is action-packed, and it's great that it is both Thomas and Hector working together who save the day. This is a really good story, for both boys and girls, with real heart. I really warmed to Hector, and even more than the social issues it highlights, it was his journey through the book that I loved.
You might also like to read The Girl In Between by Sarah Carroll
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