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  1. Set over the course of a day in the life of Billy Casper, a young schoolboy living in an impoverished Yorkshire mining town, this novel contrasts Casper's problems at home and school with the sense of purpose and fulfilment he gets from training a young kestrel. The character of Casper is well drawn and, for all his faults, it's had not to have some sympathy for him. At school he is continually told by his teachers that he's not clever enough and will never amount to anything and as such, Casper seems resigned to his fate. However, we learn how he has caught and trained a kestrel, using a stolen book to teach himself the art of falconry. Although Casper doesn't seem to recognise it himself, Hines' message of self-belief is clear and I'm sure this book will have touched a great number of readers who see a bit of Billy Casper in themselves. Hines clearly has a great deal of respect for his native South Yorkshire and any fears that the book would be full of 'Grim up North' clichés are soon dispelled. In fact, it is the Yorkshire countryside and the town's proximity to nature that predominates (the mines getting only an occasional mention). There are a few memorable scenes such as the 'German Bight' incident and the football match with the insanely competitive PE teacher Mr Sugden, but it's the heartbreaking ending and Billy's determination to keep going that stand out.
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