The Boy in the Suit by James Fox

The Boy in the Suit – at a glance

The School Reading Lists’ five word review: Parents, school, trending, Secrets, acceptance.
Children’s book title: The Boy in the Suit.
Children’s author: James Fox.
Genre: Children’s fiction.
Published by: Scholastic .
ISBN: 9780702333101.
Recommended for children aged: 9-11 year-olds.
First published: Paperback September 2024.
This children’s book is ideal for: Confident readers who will understand the messages it contains showing how the cost of living crisis impacts everyone slightly differently. It could also be useful for starting discussions about how every section of peoples lives be it home, school, work, or leisure, are linked to each other even if we feel we are the only ones it happens to.

The Boy in the Suit by James Fox

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Our review:

Solo’s life isn’t easy, especially since his mum, Morag, lost her job. Unfortunately, one of her ways to cope has been gatecrashing local funerals as mourners and stocking up on buffet food. Although Solo hates doing it he knows it works and so he wears his hated suit and makes sure no one takes any notice of him.

When Solo and Morag attend the funeral of a once-famous footballer everything falls apart after they are spotted. With his photo in the local paper, Solo is now known as FB or funeral boy and his school life, where he also wears his suit, gets even worse. Morag’s behaviour, known as the Big Bad Reds, gets more erratic and her temper more volatile until, with Solo in tow, she shoplifts an entire school uniform in full view of the shop’s CCTV cameras. After Solo is questioned by his headteacher, he rushes home but Morag is gone, leaving a note which indicates she has reached rock bottom.

Desperate to find his mum Solo and his friend Chetna go to all the places he knows she likes, from their local cafe to the caravan park where they used to spend their holidays with no luck. Chetna tells the school what is going on and he finds himself staying with his dad while the search for Morag continues.

Finally, his mum is found and taken to hospital Solo is reunited with her but it is clear things can’t return to how they were and Morag is transferred to a more suitable place to receive the specialist care and support she needs. Solo, now called Sol, moves in permanently with his dad and returns to a school more inclined to accept him as he is. He still loves and misses Morag but knows why things have to change and is finally able to accept that his dad loves him and everyone only wants what’s best for him.

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Our verdict:

The Boy in the Suit is a book with heart and a likeable main protagonist whose experiences encompass the problems far too many families are currently struggling with. Solo is in an impossible situation because he knows what he and his mum do is wrong but there isn’t anyone he trusts enough to share his worries with especially as he doesn’t want to get his mother in trouble.

The lack of money is only part of the problem for Solo, the stigma of being different, the fear of losing what little he does have, and the secrets he has to keep, colour every moment of his life. There are so many things he can’t talk about or change however much he wishes he could. When those changes do happen however, he just wants everything to go back to how it used to be.

Teaching points and book club discussion ideas:

  • The Boy in the Suit could be used to explain how a person’s situation can rapidly change, that it isn’t always their fault, and no one knows what happens behind closed doors. In Solo’s case, he wasn’t in danger but some children are.
  • In PSHE, the different agencies, clubs, and groups that can help with a difficult home or school life could be discussed.
  • Alongside this, the problems caused for Solo by Morag’s behaviour, including issues with her mental health and alcohol abuse could be highlighted.
  • With so many social and personal problems covered in this book, it is a text which could be referred to on more than one occasion to cite examples one step removed from a class and their own experiences.

Many thanks to Scholastic for the review copy.

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If you like The Boy in the Suit by James Fox you might also like: our reviews of The Final Year by Matt Goodfellow, illustrated by Joe Todd-Stanton, Secret Sister by Sophie McKenzie, Butterfly Wings by Samuel Larochelle, illustrated by Eve Patenaude, A Head Full of Magic by Sarah Morrell and Corey’s Rock by Sita Brahmachari.

Browse our  Year 5 reading list.

About Tracy Wood

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I am a voracious reader and used to be a learning support assistant in a senior school for eight years before leaving to home school my now adult daughter. I have ten grandchildren who I love reading to and spending time with. Reviews by Tracy Wood