________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 31. . . .April 12, 2013


Long Legs Boy.

Benjamin Madison.
Fernie, BC: Oolichan Books, 2012.
223 pp., trade pbk., $19.95.
ISBN 978-0-88982-290-0.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.

Review by Stephanie Yamniuk.

*** /4



"Sir, I hop you ar wel. I am fin. You ar heving one stupid walit. It jus go jump into my han so I punis him serusly. He beg pleese tek 50 kuroma. He too hevi, no feel good. I am kine boy. I am say yes ok but no mor riding for bek poket. Ok? He say ok ok i go sit frant seat now. The end. MODOU" (p. 102-103).

"Moudou," said the woman one day. "You selling more water than other boys. How you sell so much water? You bought some kind of charm from marabout?" "No Ma, you know the secret? Is not me, is our team - Umaru and me. I am talking. The toubabs are laughing - they are on vacation, they want to have a good time. They want to play a little, to be joking, but they are a little bit afraid. Maybe Africans is going to bite them or some bad thing. Them they are looking at Umaru and they are not afraid any more. He is so small and funny looking, not going to bite anyone..." (p. 132).


Long Legs Boy contains intensely emotional topics such as prostitution, abuse, hunger, and police brutality, but it is told from an innocent boy's point of view, an approach which endears the reader to want to know more about this resilient long legs boy, Modou. He is also known as Toofas because of his ability to outrun the police and other intruders. His charisma and never-give-up attitude open the door for him to meet people and find ways to help them to make a living by his own hard work and survival and cooperative strategies.

      The book brings to light the inconsistencies between well-meaning social agency policies to help street children (closing the schools for orphans, making begging illegal) and the everyday fight to stay alive. At the end of each chapter, there is a news article that shows a strongly skewed perspective of what is happening to street children in the area, and how social policy is not working in their favor. This is a strong call to readers for advocacy and interventions to support street children in positive ways.

     One of the most touching parts of the book is the relationship between Moudu and Umaru, the younger boy that he has taken under his wing. Together, they must find a way to survive living on the street, find food and shelter, and stay safe from predators, other boys who want to take their food or shelter, and from the police who are constantly looking to take them and punish them for making their town look bad in the eyes of the tourists. They, too, are just trying to survive.

      Long Legs Boy is a great resource for ELA teachers, and students studying journalism, international development and world issues, regarding the issues of power in writing about developing countries,.


Stephanie Yamniuk is an instructor in the Faculties of Education and Human Ecology at the University of Manitoba, and she is completing her PhD on the resilience and lived experiences of refugee students and their families in Canadian schools.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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