Laird, Elizabeth. The Garbage King. Oxford: Heinemann, 2003. ISBN 9780435130541
I am a huge fan of Elizabeth Laird's writing. Her YA Novels are set in various third-world countries (where she has herself traveled) in which her protagonists often face the challenges of poverty, illiteracy, and injustice whilst coming of age. Their struggles against antagonists are very real, based on stories Laird has gathered in her travels. THE GARBAGE KING is set in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and weaves together the stories of Dani, a somewhat pampered rich kid, and Mamo, a runaway child slave who takes Dani under his wing. Together the boys join a street gang to earn their living as godana, street beggars. As the boys begin to bond, they learn to respect each other and themselves. The characters they encounter and the settings they inhabit are expertly described and take the reader to the heart of the story. Laird's work teaches us about the differences in the world, but also about human nature and the power to overcome, which are the same wherever you go. Teachers and librarians, you will not go wrong recommending any of her books to students.
Recommended Grade: 8-9
Scottish Arts Council Children's Book of the Year
Stockport Book Award
Carnegie Medal Shortlist
Stockton Children's Book of the Year
Laird has collected more Ethiopian folk stories in a project. From her website, you can read even more about Ethiopia and its culture.
Other Books by Laird to Recommend:
Red Sky in Morning
Oranges in No Man's Land
A Little Piece of Ground