Children’s Book Reviews

Children's Book Reviews: Prison Boy

Publish May 29, 2015

Bestselling author, Sharon E. McKay, is no stranger to compelling, historically based fiction, penning award-winning titles, such as Thunder over Kandahar and War Brothers. Recently awarded the Ann Connor Brimer Award for Atlantic Canadian Young People for End of the Line, her latest YA novel, Prison Boy, is a powerful, thought-provoking story that unveils the vile, shockingly real world of child torture. Endorsed by Amnesty International Canada, Prison Boy recounts the astonishing life of Pax from ages seven to fourteen. When we meet him, he is living in an unnamed country with six other children, including newborn Kai, for whom Pax becomes his self-appointed “guardian, his protector, his father, mother and maybe his brother, too.” All live a meagre existence in the Pink House—a filthy, ramshackle orphanage run by the fiercely protective Englishwoman, Bell. Several years later, when Bell dies and the orphanage is destroyed, the children are left homeless. Life on the street is unforgiving, but Pax, now fourteen, vows to look after Kai. Desperate to feed, clothe, and keep Kai in school, Pax, becomes a “bicycle-boy,” doing deliveries for the elusive “Mister.” When one “simple” mission turns deadly after a heavy metal box that Pax has just finished delivering explodes, killing and injuring hundreds, Pax and Kai escape, only to be arrested. They are charged with terrorism and thrown in prison, where guards, particularly one named “Stink Boy,” unleash their wrath on Pax, using inhumane tactics in an attempt to finally break him. At once heartbreaking and haunting, Prison Boy confronts readers with the atrocities of (child) torture, which, according to Amnesty International, is still practised in 141 countries. With her starkly vivid prose, gripping scenes, and affecting characters, McKay is a master storyteller, transporting readers into the lives and experiences of political prisoners, sending them on a riveting, life-affirming journey of the power of love, and the indomitable strength of the human spirt against insurmountable odds. This book will, undoubtedly, spur some readers to take action.

Prison Boy

Sharon McKay
Annik Press
ISBN 13: 9781554517305

Jennifer D. Foster
Jennifer D. Foster Jennifer D. Foster is a Toronto-based freelance editor, mentor, and writer, specializing in book and custom publishing, magazines, and marketing and communications. She loves kidlit, greyhounds, Japan, pumpkin pie and yard sales.  

The National Reading Campaign publishes children's book reviews under a Creative Commons License. This review is entirely free to reproduce and republish online and in print. Credit must be given to the reviewer and the National Reading Campaign. Reviews can be edited for brevity only. Contact Us for more information.