Award-winning author Doherty (Willa and Old Miss Annie, p. 628, etc.) elaborates on the historical experiences of Jim Jarvis, a Victorian orphan who was among those taken in by a benevolent Irishman, Thomas John Barnardo, who founded ""Ragged Schools"" and homes for destitute children in London in the 1860s. Separated from his sisters when they go into service just before his mother's death in the workhouse, Jim flees that grim institution only to fall into the clutches of Grimy Nick, who enslaves him on his coal barge. Eventually, Jim escapes this brutal master and his vicious dog and makes his way back to London in time to see a boy he had once hoped would become a kind of brother expire of neglect after a beating by street thugs. Unlike Dickens, Doherty doesn't romanticize Jim's hard times. His trials are soberingly realistic, his encounters with those who wish they could help him poignantly brief (until he meets Barnardo in the last pages), either because of their own poverty or Jim's wariness. With short chapters and a skillful narrative, this will appeal to younger children and make an excellent lead-in to Leon Garfield's fine books about Dickensian London and to the master himself.