The Great Food Bank Heist

Authored by Onjali Q. Rauf
Illustrated by Elisa Paganelli
Published by Barrington Stoke

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The Great Food Bank Heist

Heartfelt and heart-warming, this is a story with a powerful message. It is also, as you would expect from the talented Onjali Q Rauf, a story with a pacy plot and endearing characters, easy to read and impossible to forget.

For Nelson’s family, a visit to the Food Bank is much-anticipated event. The author does not romanticise the situation; the book opens with Nelson scouring the cupboards unsuccessfully, desperate to find something to feed his younger sister, Ashley. But although Nelson feels some embarrassment (‘you never talked about Breakfast Club’) the reader sees a family full of inventive fun who create a Master Chef challenge even from unappealing ingredients. Nelson’s friends are generous and understanding, even pretending to hate prawn cocktail crisps so Ashley can enjoy her favourites. However, as the Food Bank becomes inexplicably emptier, Nelson feels increasingly complicated about accepting his friends’ kindness. It is his angry outburst at them which sparks their plan to save the Food Bank and outwit the villains.

The heist plot is engaging and entertaining. There is a stake-out which involves steaks, and a denouement which depends on slime, crisps and chocolate. Children will be genuinely keen to follow the friends’ investigation and will find huge satisfaction in the outcome.

At the same time, they will gain understanding and insight into a very real issue. Many families struggle to afford food, many pupils face school days with empty stomachs. This book’s profits will help to feed families by fundraising for The Trussell Trust and Greggs Foundation. That is excellent news. But it is not the only way that the book offers hope. The thoroughly engaging story,  the dyslexia-friendly design from Barrington Stoke and Elisa Paganelli’s delightfully expressive illustrations all combine to make this a very accessible book. Children who know hunger all too well will relish this book and children who have never once experienced a real hunger pang will devour it too. Everyone who reads The Great Food Bank Heist will see resilience and generosity and inventiveness and determination and loyalty. In this shared vision, the book offers hope and it is a hope that will certainly enrich our classrooms.

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