Seim’s debut middle-grade tale of an orphan’s journey in the early 1900s.
In this charming historical novel, Charley, 12 years old, is a street-smart city boy, accustomed to stealing food when necessary and staying out of trouble whenever possible. Roaming the streets of Boston after his mother dies, Charley learns that his father has left him and his siblings to go find work. His older brother George insists that Charley accompany his younger siblings to the New England Home for Little Wanderers, a place that will take care of them until they are placed with a family while George, who’s 14, joins his friends near his job at the wharf. Although Charley and his siblings hope to find a family for the three of them, his younger sister and brother are adopted into two separate families, leaving Charley alone in the orphanage. Before long, the boy’s beautiful voice brings him to the next chapter in his life; while leading a children’s choir on a trip to Maine, Charley sings his way into the hearts of the Worthingtons. He must learn to adjust to life on a farm, where his street savvy is no longer an asset, and new challenges confront him at every turn. His foster parents, though strict, are kind to Charley and endeavor to make him comfortable in his new home. In time, however, a family tragedy compels Charley to run back to Boston and see if he can survive on his own. But a sudden turn of events halts his plans and gives him a chance to prove himself a hero. This gently told story of abandonment and survival is a captivating read, drawing on historical facts to give texture to the tale. Charley’s rambunctious spirit and tenacity pave the way for endless adventures and lessons learned. Young readers, even struggling ones, will find this novel easy to read and an enjoyable way to learn about a different time, and Charley’s emotional roller coaster as he is passed from place to place is affecting.
A well-drawn coming-of-age tale about the loves and losses of a young boy.