A BANKS STREET BEST BOOK 2012
MAGGIE & OLIVER (reviewed on September 15, 2011)
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)