Sawbones by Catherine Johnson

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Recommended by Stephen Dilley @stephenjdilley

Author: Catherine Johnson

Form: Historical Fiction/ Thriller (prose)

Length: 240 pages

Brief summary: A historical murder mystery set in late 18th Century London; the main character, Ezra McAdam, is a freed slave who is now working as a surgeon’s apprentice. He teams up with Loveday Finch, a magician’s daughter, to investigate her father’s death.

Age recommendation and challenging content: Have taught this to Year 7 but would work well with Year 8 too.
Features some racial slurs from the period in which the novel was set, and a fair amount of medical gore – mostly quite cartoonish but there is one distressing scene featuring a botched amputation.

Notable reasons for recommending: A gripping contemporary YA novel by a Black British writer, with links to Black British history. Good cross-curricular historical and scientific links.
Similar in style to The Ruby in the Smoke but with slightly less convoluted plot, and features a person of colour as the protagonist.

Other information you think an English teacher should know: The author is on Twitter and was very happy to answer questions submitted by pupils!

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