- Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
- Format: Paperback | 208 pages
- Dimensions: 128mm x 194mm x 16mm | 181g
- Publication date: 3 September 2009
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 0007311257
- ISBN 13: 9780007311255
- Sales rank: 33,890
Unforgettable tale of an orphan in Victorian London, based on the boy whose plight inspired Dr Barnardo to found his famous children's homes. When his mother dies, Jim Jarvis is left all alone in London. He is sent to the workhouse but quickly escapes, choosing a hard life on the streets of the city over the confines of the workhouse walls. Struggling to survive, Jim finally finds some friends...only to be snatched away and made to work for the remorselessly cruel Grimy Nick, constantly guarded by his vicious dog, Snipe. Will Jim ever manage to be free?
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Born in Knotty Ash, Liverpool, Berlie Doherty is the youngest of three children. She has been a social worker, a journalist, a teacher, and, for the past fifteen years, a writer. Berlie has twice won the prestigious Carnegie Medal, for 'Grannie was a Buffer Girl' in 1987 and for 'Dear Nobody' in 1992. She lives in the Derbyshire Peak District.
By Nicola Mansfield 06 Jul 2010
As part of the Essential Modern Classics series the book starts with an informative paragraph bio. of the author followed by an essay entitled "Why You'll Love This Book" written by a famous author, in this case Julia Golding. Then a quick blurb on just who is Julia Golding. This publisher's series also sometimes end with extra material at the back of the book called "More Than A Story". Here we have some very interesting pertinent information which really adds to the satisfaction of having read the book. First is a generous Author's Note describing the true story behind the characters who really once existed, then a section on sad but true information about Victorian Work Houses, then another section with bulleted information on the history of Barnardo's Homes for Boys and eventually girls. Finally rounding off with a Q&A with the author about the book which is very enjoyable.
This book is based on the true story of an orphan, Jim Jarvis, about seven years old, who Dr. Barnardo credits with giving him the emotional push to start his homes for street boys. Only a basic outline of the real Jim Jarvis's life is known and the author has fleshed that out into a sad hard knocks life that eventually ends on as good a note as could be expected. Jim is orphaned in the work house where he spends a year until he escapes and then he finds a bit of happiness living in a shack on the waterfront helping a girl sell eels and shells, and making friends with other street boys, until her Grandfather finds Jim in his worthless shack and sells him to a coal worker where he is abused and worked like a slave. A few years go by and Jim wonders if he'll ever be free, since the one time he tried to escape has resulted in him being tied to the boat like a dog.
An engaging story with many heart-breaking scenes and some that are poignant and heart warming. Though Barnardo enters the story at the end, this is very much Jim's story. A story of what life was like for a street kid in the Victorian era. The extreme poverty, the looming threat of the work house if the police caught you, the inevitability of having to steal or starve and sleeping on rooftops to keep safe from the law. The book is very much full of hardships but Jim is a determined boy with a will to fight to stay alive and avoid returning to the work house. Though his spirit may have been almost extinguished a few times he always manages to gather heart and keep resilient. This is a dark book, there is death and abuse and a sadness permeating its pages. But the writing and content is age appropriate. Jim's small victories and little bouts of happiness stand out in shining contrast to the world he lives in. The ending is heart-wrenching in a good way and leaves readers with a sense of good will and happiness that may make some kids interested in finding out more about Barnardo and his work.