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The Night Bus Hero

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Before he knows it, Hector finds himself the hero of his own story for the first time ever - both for the exciting and dangerous part he plays in busting a high profile criminal pursuit but also for his own personal journey of compassion and learning to reach out to others. With that said, the last three chapters are superb, and did my voice break several times while reading the last chapter? But it would serve her right for being the worst lunch lady we’d ever had—­always narrowing her eyes and giving us the smallest spoonfuls of the things we wanted, and plonking giant spoonfuls of the things we hated onto our plates.

Raúf is a children’s author and human rights activist, the founder of two charities Making Herstory and O’ Refugee Aid Team. But because Hector is telling the story we soon realise that he is dealing with troubles of his own, and as we know, most bullies are troubled humans.

I found myself having to go back and reread bits as my eagerness to know what happened next meant I kept accidentally skimming ahead! Rauf's books tackle challenging subjects and this is no exception, illuminating both the tragedy of homelessness and the power of unseen acts of kindness in our midst. There’s Thomas, the homeless man with a heartbreaking background story; the Catwoman, who demonstrated to Hector the value of community connection and collaboration; and Mei-Li, Hector’s classmate who shows him what it means to treat others with a grace and respect that breaks barriers and brings about the treasure of moving beyond surface appearances. I loved going on the journey with Hector and seeing him learn about homeless people and how they aren't bad like he thinks they are at the beginning - the friendship that blossoms between Thomas and Hector is truly beautiful.

The inclusion of the Night Bus route map (laid out by Pippa Curnick who also did the striking front cover) is a lovely touch, and helps you to mentally draw together all the robberies with the surrounding landmarks. Hrdina z nočného autobusu atypickým spôsobom prepája to ťaživé s vtipným či špinavé s čistým a svojsky nenásilným spôsobom tak ponúka náhľad do temnejších zákutí každodenného sveta i nie vždy fungujúce pozadie na prvý pohľad spokojných a šťastných rodín. I could see all the lunch ladies in their bright blue uniforms staring at me with their mouths wide open, like doors someone had forgot to shut. For example, as the book opens, Hector is about to drop a second rubber snake into the school's lunch soup, and even as the principal warns him not to, Hector defiantly does it anyway, knowing he will be in trouble. The backgrounds of the homeless characters such as Thomas and Catwoman, as well as Mei-Li’s, are so touching and all too real – they are stories you’ve read or seen a hundred times.

With the help of his enemy Mei Lei, Hector must race against time to make sure justice is done - but that's not the only thing he needs to change. I enjoyed this story very much - the tranformation of the main character, Hector, from nasty bully to hero was relatively simplistic, but effective and powerful. Hector has been getting into trouble for as long as he can remember, he doesn’t mind so much though because most of his best ideas come to him when he’s on detention.

This was a family read aloud and expectations were enormous since we all loved the author’s previous read aloud, The Boy at the Back of the Class. On the other side, you have a story centering a bully, putting Hector at its center is also a reminder of the cycle of abandonment, how his bad behavior is just reinforced always by the worst being what is expected of him, and how hard it is to break that pattern. Raúf does not make this an “excuse” for his behaviour though; his bully friends come from different family dynamics, so the implication that bad behaviour is always the result of absent parents or broken homes is neatly avoided.

Hector's character arc was superb and he really did shine through in the end which was heart-warming to read. The community of homeless people is portrayed vividly and intriguingly - from the sounds and smells of the soup kitchen to the night bus route to the system of painted symbols, their world is painted with dignity and compassion. Negatívne pôsobiaci jedinci stojaci kdesi na čele detských príbehov síce nie sú zrovna typickí, britská autorka Onjali Q. I eventually realised it would provide great talking points for a class read aloud - why does this boy do the things he does?

It soon becomes clear that Thomas has been wronged accused due to his appearance and the pair form and unlikely friendship that leads to them pursuing the actual culprit. Onjali dedicated a few pages at the back of the book to homelessness, the signs homeless people use and what they mean, and some charities and people that Onjali loves and wants to make the reader aware of due to their contributions to homelessness (there are also a couple of pages on bullying and what bullying is). Onjali Rauf’s beautifully relatable storytelling is perfect for highlighting social issues in a way that fully engages young readers. I thought this book was going to be PRETTY interesting, but as I read the chapters I noticed that it wasn't PRETTY interesting but first - rate!The ending was very good and I loved the character development, but the start and middle were too much like "I stole candies from other kids like I always did" "as usual I went to bully some kids", more telling than showing. In fact, they all contribute to his redemption in such a believable way that it all happens almost unconsciously, for the reader and for Hector.

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