A 12-year-old boy is left to fend for himself in 18th-century England following a terrible storm and the disappearance of his father.
Oliver turns to his neighbors for help only to discover that his father’s anti-monarchy leanings have earned him a number of enemies. Oliver is at the mercy of these men, who decide to take out their dislike for the father on the son. They deliver Oliver to the local children’s poorhouse, where he is forced to do menial work and must submit to abusive punishment. He escapes, determined to make his way to London to find his sister and perhaps his father. But a series of mishaps finds him penniless and at the mercy of a band of highwaymen. Things only get more complicated when he finally arrives in London. Narrator Oliver’s witty and honest voice makes this tale of misfortune bearable as well as riveting. From the abject poverty of London streets to the cruel treatment of children to the lengths to which some are forced to go to survive, this first in a new series will capture the hearts and minds of readers and history buffs alike. Unsurprisingly, the cast is a white one, but Avi’s examination of the plight of the desperately poor is worthy of Dickens.
Impossible to put down. (Historical fiction. 9-12)