From the Publisher
“…young fans of old-fashioned hard luck tales that end happily will snap this up.” BCCB
“…[an] optimistic ending about survival and friendship.” Booklist
“This is Victoriana with no steampunk shenanigans and no tongues in cheeks, just well-orchestrated, straightforward storytelling for newish readers--with a bonus of warm pencil drawings reminiscent of Lois Lenski.” Horn Book Magazine
“A warm story about friendship, but it's also an introduction to the treatment of children and animals in the early 1900s.” School Library Journal
“A touching and emotionally satisfying foundling tale.” Kirkus Reviews
Children's Literature - Leigh Geiger
Alternating chapters present two very different points of view as they track the desperate lives of the homeless in early twentieth century Boston. Oliver is a young dog who is searching for his lost master. Maggie is a ten-year-old orphan who worked as a maid until her employer threw her out into the snowy streets for being too inquisitive and outspoken. Readers will gain some appreciation for the Dickensian aspects of this historical period. Maggie finds work in a horrific shirtwaist factory where no one dares to speak. She is expected to jump in a "dust bin" if the police come to enforce the child labor laws. Through Oliver's dog's eye view we see the dirt, starvation and occasional violence of the poorest people as well as the privilege and tyranny of the upper classes. Monochromatic sketches, evocative of the period, enhance our appreciation of the mood of this era. The two homeless and desperate orphans meet and eventually find a home together in a final, surprising and satisfying chapter. Reviewer: Leigh Geiger, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Maggie and Oliver live parallel lives in early-20th-century Boston. Oliver is a mutt whose cozy home is abruptly taken away after his owner dies. Ten-year-old Maggie's job as a maid ends when she steps out of line by speaking to the visiting Duchess of Landsaway. She is cast out with nothing more promising than a golden locket that reveals a mysterious picture. In alternating chapters, the story focuses on each character's efforts to survive amid ever-present hunger and frigid weather. Underage Maggie goes to work in a shirtwaist factory where she endures inhumane conditions and a cruel boss. There she befriends Daniel, a street-smart youngster who shows her the ropes. Meanwhile, Oliver goes searching for his owner, whom he believes is still alive. He encounters a few good samaritans, but many other people are not so kind. He eventually finds himself locked in a lonely, cold kitchen where he is expected to be a ratter or else. Threaded through the chapters are chance meetings between Maggie, Oliver, and the duchess. This is mainly a warm story about friendship, but it's also an introduction to the treatment of children and animals in the early 1900s. Thermes's illustrations bring needed lightness to the difficulties and call to mind artists of that era. The ending is predictable but satisfying.—Diane McCabe, Loyola Village Elementary School, Los Angeles
In 1905 Boston, a 10-year-old orphan finds herself on the streets (with a mysterious golden locket), as does a just-orphaned dog, in this heartwarming story about a search for home under rough conditions.
Maggie has unruly, curly brown hair, round blue eyes and a penchant for asking questions; in fact, she is dismissed from Madame Dinglebush's employ as a housekeeper for "insolence" and "disobedience" when she inadvertently responds to the visiting Duchess of Landsaway's smile. Simultaneously Oliver, a "brown dog with hair like a scrub brush," is searching for his beloved long-time owner Bertie via his acute sense of smell; an early chapter is aptly titled "The Nose Knows." Hobbs (The Last Best Days of Summer, 2010, etc.) places her plucky protagonists in a Dickensian world in which both are freezing (it's March and snowing), hungry, exhausted and in constant danger. Maggie finds backbreaking work in a shirtwaist factory "bereft of human speech" run by a Mr. Speak, and Oliver (called Lucky by Maggie) is almost made into dog-meat stew. The author deftly utilizes the techniques of literary serialization in her 32 short chapters, and young readers will eagerly turn the pages to find out what happens next. Thermes' black-and-white illustrations quietly match both tone and period.
A touching and emotionally satisfying foundling tale. (Historical fiction. 8-12)
Read an Excerpt
With his long, wet tongue, Oliver licked and licked Bertie’s cheek. “Wake up,” his tongue said. “It’s time to get up!”
But Bertie would not wake up. Her eyelids did not flutter. She did not groan and swat her hand at him. She did not say, “Oh, Oliver, you pesky dog.” She lay still beneath her quilt of many colors, and Oliver waited.
All night long, he had chased things in his dreams. Cats and trolley cars, snowflakes and tin cans. He had snored and snuffled, and his back legs ran and ran. Now he was hungry and wanted his breakfast. He poked his nose into Bertie’s hand and waited, his tail wagging, but she did not move.
He padded out to the kitchen to check his bowl again. It was still empty, licked clean from the night before. It was a very sad, empty bowl.
There was something quite wrong here, but Oliver did not know what it was. The house was quiet, strangely quiet. The squirrels in the attic were not chattering. Even the mice, awake before the sun, were quiet. Did they know something he didn’t?
Only the clock on the mantelpiece wagged its golden tongue, click-click, back and forth, back and forth, as if it knew what was wrong but didn’t much care.
The ice wagon came creaking up the road. Gerd, the iceman, was Oliver’s friend. Gerd would know what to do. Down the steps Oliver ran, two by two by two, and out into the yard. Leaping against the fence, he howled for Gerd.
“Oliver—there, boy! What’s the matter?” Gerd’s brown face crumpled up like a washrag. He took Oliver’s head in both his hands and rubbed him hard, the way Oliver liked to be rubbed. His brown eyes were tender. “What’s all the fuss?” he said.
“Come and see!” Oliver said with his eyes. Some humans could read dog eyes, but Gerd was not one of them.
Gerd went to the back of the ice wagon just as he always did. With his tongs, he pierced a block of ice and hauled it through the gate. He went up the stairs, the ice block dripping. Oliver ran alongside, dodging the drops.
At the door, Gerd called out to Bertie, but she did not answer him. That is when Oliver let out the most awful howl.
“There, boy,” said Gerd. “Calm down, now.”
Gerd went into the kitchen. He opened the icebox and slid the block of ice inside. “Bertie?”
Oliver sprinted across the kitchen. He waited for Gerd at the bedroom door. When Gerd came, Oliver raced to Bertie’s bed and pushed his nose into her cold hand once more. She did not move.
Gerd leaned over Bertie. He laid his hand against her cheek. He shook his head. “Oh, dear,” he said.
* * *
Bertie’s family came. Bertie was old, they said. It was her time to go. “Where?” asked Oliver with his eyes. “Where is Bertie going?”
But Bertie’s family could not read dog eyes either. They ignored the brown dog. They fought over who would get the dining room table. Who would get the dishes and the mantelpiece clock. The clock clicked away as if it didn’t care, but Oliver knew it did.
Oliver was hungry. Very sad and very hungry. He pushed his bowl all over the kitchen with his nose, but no one noticed.
The movers came and took everything away. There went Bertie’s chair, there went her quilt. There went Oliver’s dish! Oliver whined and yipped and ran in circles.
One of the movers patted Oliver’s head. “Hey!” he called. “Who’s taking the dog?”
No one did.
Now the house was empty and the fireplace cold. No rocking chair sat before it, no little black book for Bertie to read, no reading glasses to see the words with, no Bertie.
Oliver lay down where his rug used to be. He put his nose on his paws and tried to think. Without Bertie, who would brush his coat? Who would trim his whiskers? Who would fill his bowl?
Who would love him for being the special dog that he was?
Oliver knew what he must do. He must find Bertie. She would wake up, wherever she was, and look for him. She would swat at him and say, “Oh, Oliver, you pesky dog. Where have you been?”
Why hadn’t he followed the wagon that took her away? By now, the trail would be cold.
Text copyright © 2011 by Valerie Hobbs
Illustrations copyright © 2011 by Jennifer Thermes