Blood Runner by James Riordan

The best authors can put you in their characters shoes and experience everything that they do.  You can empathise with the characters and feel all their emotions.  James Riordan is one of those authors.  I still remember how I felt when I read his book Sweet Clarinet (about a boy badly injured in World War II) many years ago.  His latest book, Blood Runner, puts us in the shoes of a boy growing up in Apartheid South Africa, who fights for his people’s freedom in the only way he knows how.

Samuel is growing up in a South Africa divided into blacks and whites.  Samuel and his people have to carry passbooks in order to move into the whites-only zone, but a group of men in Samuel’s town don’t think that it is right they should have to carry them.  This group stage a peaceful protest by walking to the police station, and many of the other residents of the town, including Samuel and his family come to watch what will happen.  In a display of their force, the police arm themselves with guns and tanks, and when someone fires accidentally, all hell breaks loose.  As people try to flee, the police start gunning them down and Samuel’s parents and sister are killed.  Samuel is separated from his brothers who both retaliate by joining the anti-Apartheid movement, with guns and terrorism as their weapons.  But Sam decides to fight for freedom in his own way – as a runner.  Against all odds, Samuel strives to become the best runner he can so that he can compete in marathons, and achieve his dream of winning gold in the Olympic Games.

Blood Runner is an inspirational story that portrays the hardships and prejudice that black people, like Samuel, faced in Apartheid South Africa.  Through Samuel, James Riordan shows us that people can face extraordinary circumstances but still have the strength and determination to fight for what they believe is right.  James Riordan also shows us, through other people Samuel meets, that not all white people shared the same views, that many of them wanted everyone in South Africa to have the same rights and freedom.  James also provides a basic history of Apartheid at the end of the book which would be a great teaching tool.  If you like authors like Elizabeth Laird, Deborah Ellis or Sally Grindley then this is the perfect book for you.

4 out of 5 stars

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