A master of historical fiction (Smith, 1967) spins another London-set, Dickensian tale: a pair of waifs--ten-year-old Nick and his year-younger sister, Jubilee--join forces with Christmas Owen, a tenderhearted old thief who is also known as Parrot Face. The children follow Owen in hopes of somehow claiming the reward of 50 pounds for a watch they suspect him of stealing; later, they cajole him into posing as their father so that they can enroll in a charity school (the Blewcoat School, which was actually founded in 1709). By predictable but neatly devised stages, the three become a family. Owen finds a lawful means of support as a street singer, until talented Jubilee's need for a violin (a Cremona-made bargain) prompts him to offer the watch to its owner in order to claim the reward, and he's nabbed by the police. The magistrate is harsh; but fortunately the wily author has an unexpected trick up his sleeve to save the reformed miscreant. The plot here is less intricate than in The December Rose (1987); the appeal is in the feisty, memorable characters, in Garfield's witty use of reiterated notions and phrases, and in the satisfying theme of a harbor safely found. Well wrought.