The Viney Agency


Holly Smale

Ele Fountain has worked in the publishing industry for sixteen years. During this time she worked with some of this generation’s finest authors, commissioning bestselling and many award-winning novels.

She spent half of the last decade overseas, living in France then Ethiopia, and is now based in Hampshire (less of a commute). It was during her time in Ethiopia that Ele wrote her début novel, Boy 87, the story of a child refugee.

She lives with her husband and two daughters in their crumbling house from the 1680s.

Seen through the eyes of fourteen-year-old Shif, Boy 87 is the moving story of one child refugee’s challenging adventure in search of safety. Shif has a happy family life, enjoys playing chess with his best friend Bini and both have bright futures at school. Then their world implodes and a terrifying new life begins. To escape enforced army conscription, Bini and Shif's mothers quickly plan how their children will travel alone across the desert to the Mediterranean and onwards to England, leaving behind all they know. But before they are able to leave, a ‘giffa’ troop arrests them and takes them to a remote desert prison. So begins the boys’ unforgettable and dangerous journey.

Boy 87 was inspired by the three years Ele lived in Ethiopia: ‘Moving to Ethiopia with a small baby and toddler might not seem like the most sensible decision... Our family move coincided with one of the largest refugee crises in modern history. On the news countries including Ethiopia were mentioned as another boatful of people sank off the Mediterranean coast. But what of the stories that led these people to be on those boats in the first place? As an Editor, I'd spoken to many authors about their inspiration, never thinking I would have any of my own, but then an idea arrived and I couldn't shake it, and that's when I began to understand the need to write. There was a story which I very much wanted to share, and it was Boy 87.'

Sarah Odedina, Pushkin Children’s Books Editor-at-Large says: Boy 87 is beautifully written, it has a huge heart and it is an important book. A story that will give young readers a deeper understanding of the world by showing them that the people that they see on the news are people just like them. A story about friendship and trust, that is full of hope and kindness – it is a fantastically assured debut by Ele Fountain.’

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Boy 87, Pushkin Press, 2018.