Infants of the Brush is historical fiction based on Armory v. Delamirie, a 1700s court case before the King’s Bench against Paul de Lamerie, a silversmith. In the vein of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, Infants of the Brush is set in a time when London society ignored the ills of child labor. Unlike the gleeful chimney sweeps portrayed in Mary Poppins, climbing boys were forced up burning flues to dislodge harmful soot and coal ash.
Egan Whitcombe is just six years old when he is sold to Master Armory for a few coins that his family desperately needs. As one of Master Armory’s eight broomers, Egan quickly learns that his life depends on absolute obedience and the coins he earns.
Pitt, the leader of Master Armory’s broomers, teaches Egan to sweep chimneys and negotiate for scraps of bread. Broken and starving, the boys discover friendship as they struggle to save five guineas, the cost of a broomer’s independence.
|Publisher:||Red Acre Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)|
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In reading "Infants of the Brush" I became so immersed in the charming little broomers. I wanted to know what comes next and couldn't wait to see how the book ended. There were times that I cried, times that I was sickened by someone's pure cruelty toward another human being. There were also times that I smiled or laughed and was so very glad to read of the compassion of a kind-hearted person. This is a story of great worth. A. M. Watson has written a story that will not be forgotten.
Infants of the Brush is a beautifully written story. I could see 1700s London and hear the little broomers calling out their services in the streets. Exceptional and unexpected storytelling! I highly recommend it!
Reviewed by A. L. Peevey for Readers' Favorite A.M. Watson’s Infants of the Brush: A Chimney Sweep's Story recounts the story of a handful of boys all but enslaved by a master chimney sweep. With his widowed mother desperate for money, Egan Whitcombe, aged six, is apprenticed to Daniel Armory for three crowns, and so begins an ordeal that Egan must embrace to the best of his ability or perish. As he longs to see his family again, Egan’s only solace is the tutelage of Thomas Pitt, the kind-hearted older apprentice who takes Egan under his wing, watching out for him the best that he can as he teaches Egan how to become a “broomer” or “climbing boy” in the perilous trade of chimney sweeping. Pitt also teaches him how to hide a little money here and there, to save enough to buy their freedom some day. Enriched by and firmly rooted in historical fact, A.M. Watson’s Infants of the Brush does not mince words. Eighteenth century London, England is not a kind place for poor and homeless children. Watson delivers a heart-wrenching story of extremes, where young boys are exploited as they provide a needed service to the wealthy, who do not consider the danger inherent in chimney sweeping or the basic well-being of the boys. Yet, these same boys take joy in the simplest of pleasures such as getting a few extra mouthfuls of food or spending a few nights in a graveyard, a haven of peace compared to the cellar where they are usually put every night. Despite the horrible plight of Egan and his companions, this poignant story is well written, readable, and hopeful, offering us a view into another time, authentic in its use of dialect, and well worth the time of readers. A great book. Well done in every way!
Infants of the Brush: A Chimney Sweep’s Story is a polished, skilfully written book, which is illuminating, riveting and profoundly heart-breaking. A.M. Watson recreates the atmospheric world of 1720s London in a similar style as Charles Dickens. The similarity is reinforced regarding children that eked out a living under harsh and brutal conditions, with nothing more than a bowl of gruel to fill empty stomachs, and a tyrant to answer to. Egan Whitcombe is just a 6-year-old boy, who is sold by his Mother to the soulless Daniel Armory – Master Chimney Sweep, for 3 Crowns (15 Shillings). Egan is an asset because he is small and can climb into the narrower flues. Chimney Sweep Masters forced children to climb up flues by poking their legs with needles or lighting a fire underneath them. The idiom “light a fire under someone” has its origins in this unforgiveable practice. The hidden dangers are shocking and each child navigates them through tenuously controlled fear. Egan is taken under the mentorship of another boy, Pitt, only 13, but with such an amazing sense of maturity and awareness, that in itself reaffirms how short childhood was for these children. Pitt’s character is wonderfully drawn, as are all 8 boys, the group teeming with a range of personalities and traits that enables interesting and compelling dialogue and interactions. It was a pleasure to meet Pitt. You should meet him as well. His principles, emotional intelligence, craft and capacity to care, shines as an example for us all. The transformation of Egan from a totally bewildered tearful infant to a hard-working yet mindful boy is dramatically yet delicately achieved. Each boy must bring in at least 2 shillings per day but they know if they can eventually gather 5 guineas, they can repay the debt to set themselves free. That means they need to tactically and carefully syphon off some money each day but still make their quota. “I’ll give Master Armory a shilling and eight coppers as our earnings. I’ll keep the extra coins to make up earnings on a day when work is hard to come by. Eventually, I’ll have five guineas to pay me debt. ... I’ll do it too one day, pay me debt and leave. Be sure to start yer own stash. A pence here and a haypenney there adds up. And don’t go eating just because you have the coin. Savings is better than a full stomach.” Pitt explains to Egan The ultimate desire to save for freedom leads to an incident that results in a court case. The subsequent court case, Armory vs Delamirie, fuelled the inspiration for this book and is on record as establishing an important principle in property law. If tears fall while reading this book, or your teeth clench with anger, then you have a heart that feels and empathises with the most vulnerable of society. Credit has to go to A.M. Watson for weaving her literary magic and making the reader feel like this. It’s impossible to let these images fall easily from your mind. I highly recommend this book and I'm hugely impressed that this is a debut novel.
We are proud to announce that INFANTS IN THE BRUSH: A chimney Sweep's Story by A.M. Watson is a B.R.A.G.Medallion Honoree. This tells readers that this book is well worth their time and money!