Young Frederick is plucked from an orphanage to be a footboy for a wizard named Lord Schofield in Victorian England. Is his uncanny ability to tie perfect knots and render boots spotless a sign of his own magical talent, or the work of Billy Bly, the brownie who has been secretly watching over him since he was little? No matter, for the wizard has banished all magical creatures from his holdings. But Billy Bly isn't going anywhere, and when he discovers a curse upon the manor house, it's up to Frederick and Billy...
Young Frederick is plucked from an orphanage to be a footboy for a wizard named Lord Schofield in Victorian England. Is his uncanny ability to tie perfect knots and render boots spotless a sign of his own magical talent, or the work of Billy Bly, the brownie who has been secretly watching over him since he was little? No matter, for the wizard has banished all magical creatures from his holdings. But Billy Bly isn't going anywhere, and when he discovers a curse upon the manor house, it's up to Frederick and Billy Bly to keep the lord's new baby safe and rid the Schofield family of the curse forever.
A well-developed fictional world and the many concrete details…make the magical events in this engaging chapter book more believable.
- Shirley Nelson
Ten-year old Frederick has a difficult life in the orphanage, but he makes the best of it. He takes advantage of working in the kitchen to ask the cook to teach him new skills such as knot tying and knife sharpening. However, Mr. Makepeace, the director, does not allow orphans in the kitchen. When Frederick is caught, Mr. Makepeace empties five pounds of beans and three pounds of peas on the floor. If Frederick does not pick up, clean, and sort them by morning, he will be punished severely. Frederick falls asleep and awakes to find the beans and peas carefully cleaned and sorted. He seems to remember a little man helping but thinks it is a dream. This is the beginning of Frederick's relationship with the elusive brownie Billy Bly. Frederick's life changes dramatically when he is chosen to work for the wizard Lord Schofield simply because the uniform fits him. He learns that a curse still hovers over the Schofield country manor house and poses danger for the new heir. With a bit of help from Billy Bly, but mostly from his own ingenuity, new skills, and hard work, Frederick becomes a valued member of the wizard's household as he stubbornly fights the curse. This Cinderella-like story with Dickensian flavor follows the coming-of-age of Frederick. Reviewer: Shirley Nelson
School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—When Frederick Lincoln, an orphan, is chosen to be trained as a footman in the house of Thomas Schofield, he brings nothing with him—or so it seems. The boy is actually accompanied by Billy Bly, a hardworking but mischievous brownie. Are Frederick's uncanny boot-polishing and cravat-tying skills due to his own eagerness to be useful, or to a budding magical talent helped along by Billy Bly? The wizard Schofield soon becomes aware of Billy's help and Frederick's natural gifts. However, he is not aware that the lingering remains of an old curse lurk in the walls of his ancestral home, threatening his own life and those of his wife and unborn child. Frederick and Billy must find a way to stop the curse before it is too late. This cozy tale of household magic, complete with a dash of adventure and a pinch of danger, will have children cheering for Frederick as he finds his way in his new home. Stevermer's readers will enjoy seeing characters from some of her earlier works make an appearance, and fans of Diana Wynne Jones and Patricia C. Wrede will appreciate this delightful Victorian fantasy.—Misti Tidman, Boyd County Public Library, Ashland, KY
Frederick is an orphan in the kind of institution where boys get locked in the stillroom for minor infractions. But Billy Bly, a small creature with an agenda of his own, looks after Frederick in his way, even following when the boy is taken into the service of a wizard named Lord Schofield, where his uncanny knack for tying a cravat is noticed. He's a plucky boy, wondering about Billy and learning from Bess, a friendly scullery maid with a raft of relatives, many of whom serve Lord Schofield. When the household moves to the lord's country estate, Frederick goes with it and finds himself enmeshed in a not-quite-scrubbed-out curse on the wizard's family. The book is gracefully and winningly written, moves at a swift pace and allows Frederick to show himself as both an 11-year-old boy and a budding student of magic. Older readers will recognize Thomas and Kate Schofield of Sorcery and Cecelia, co-written by the author with Patricia Wrede (2003). Lovely and lively. ("According to Bess" glossary) (Historical fantasy. 8-12)