Joe and his little sister Annie escape from a farm where they are treated like slaves to make their way to Manchester in hopes of reuniting with their mother. They get help from a kind stranger and a mysterious dog-woman before finding a place with a traveling fair. Trouble is, Annie fits in with the fair—especially once they learn she can speak to the dead—but Joe doesn’t. He leaves her behind to join a street gang, but living rough is more dangerous than he thought, and he ends up being taken in by a rich man as a social experiment on educating the poor. The food and housing aren’t enough to contain Joe, though, and he flees to the employ of a reformist newspaperman, vowing to find Annie again. In true Victorian fashion, this epic novel is sure to grip readers from the first page.
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Livi Michaellives in Lancashire, England.From School Library Journal:
Grade 7-10–In Victorian England, two poverty-stricken siblings, left by their mother at the workhouse and then sold to an abusive farmer, try to get to Manchester to find her. Joe and his younger sister are helped by a friendly tramp, encounter hideous Dog-woman, and join a traveling fair. Annie has some rare gifts: she can see the dead and prophesize the future. Joe, in a move he will deeply regret, leaves her with the performers and continues on to the city, where he takes up with a gang of orphans who fend for themselves. Next, a wealthy gentleman takes Joe in, but the boy eventually realizes that his benefactor thinks the poor are animals and runs off. He connects with a radical printer and his friend, Nell. When Joe finds Annie and discovers that their mother has died, the four of them make a family. This episodic novel moves from one tragedy to another, yet manages to end in hope. Joe is an engaging narrator who, through his love of stories, continually reinvents himself. Michael's depiction of 1830s Manchester is one of the best aspects of the novel. The chaos, poverty, and disease brought by industrialization are vividly drawn. With its blend of magical realism and grim history, this novel reads like David Almond meeting Charles Dickens. Although the book drags a bit in places, there is much that will appeal to teen readers.–Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME
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Book Description PUFFIN, 2005. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0141317035