Teens' book of the month: The Fastest Boy in the World

Author: Liz Laird 


A thoroughly enjoyable read with friendship, running and heroism at its heart.

The characters are expertly drawn out by Elizabeth and are a real standout feature of the book; particularly Soloman, his grandfather and Kebede. The Grandfather’s story is really fascinating and gives the reader an insight to Ethiopia’s past.

Aspiring young athletes, inspired by the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, will also find plenty to enjoy in the book although I cannot recommend trying to run over twenty miles barefooted.


We have 5 copies of The Fastest Boy in the World to be won! To be in with a chance of winning one, just answer this question:

Which Scottish city is hosting the 2014 Commonwealth Games?

Add your answer as a comment to this page, or email it to hello@scottishbooktrust.com with the subject 'Teens Book of the Month'. Competition closes on Monday 30 June. Entrants outside the UK must cover postage.


Q&A with the author, Liz Laird

Did you enjoy the research that you did for this book?

That's rather a hard question to answer, because in a way I've been researching this book for more than 45 years. That's when I first went to Ethiopia and began to learn about that amazing country and the people who live in it.

The real bit of research was just an accident. I happened to be in Addis Ababa (the capital city of Ethiopia) on the day when the nation's athletes were returning from Athens after yet another triumph in the Olympic Games. They had, as always, scooped up lots of medals. I was standing in the crowd when the marathon winners in their motorcade came through, their medals on ribbons bouncing against their chests. The crowd went wild, and so did I. There were runners in front of the cars chanting "Ah-oh! Ah-oh! Ah-oh!" and women were trilling their tongues, and everyone was clapping and shouting. It was totally brilliant. You can't do that kind of research in libraries. You just have to be there.

Why did you start writing this book?

I think it was the London 2012 Olympics that got me all fired up about runners again. I felt such awe and admiration for what those athletes could do, and how much work and dedication went into their running. It made me remember my travels in Ethiopia again. Wherever you go in Ethiopia, you see children running. They don't usually have mums and dads to take them to school in cars, and there aren't many school buses, so most children have to go to school on foot. Sometimes the school is five miles away from home, and the children have to walk or run that distance there and back every day.

The Olympic gold medallist runners are the great heroes and heroines of Ethiopia, and every boy and every girl wants to be one too. They're proud of how far and fast they can run. Many of them hope that one day they'll represent their country in the international games, and so they run. And run. And run. It's inspiring to see them. You know that out of all those kids, some will make it to the big time and be the next generation of Olympic superstars. It was that idea that got me started on the story of The Fastest Boy in the World.

What else have you written?

I've written more than twenty-five novels and some collections of stories from around the world, too. Quite a few of my novels are set in other countries. The Garbage King is about a gang of street boys in Addis Ababa. The Prince who Walked with Lions is about an Ethiopian prince who had to leave his country in the nineteenth century when he was taken to Queen Victoria. A Little Piece of Ground is set in Ramallah, and is about Palestinian boys who want to play football. Lost Riders is about boys from Pakistan who are taken to the Middle East to be camel jockeys.

You can find out about these and all my other books on my website. Happy reading!

If you'd like to read more teen books about running, visit our book list 9 books about running for some great suggestions!