Fagin’s Girl

It’s World Book Day. Here, anyway. And children are yet again dressing up for it, and authors are cautiously returning to school visits.

Karen McCombie’s Fagin’s Girl is about another kind of dressing up. A long time ago, when poverty was – probably – even more common than now, the loss of a parent, and the subsequent loss of home and livelihood was serious.

Set in London in 1836 we meet two siblings who end up as orphans and have to try and survive by whatever means available to them. In this case it means turning to crime. And to do crime ‘well’, Ettie has to dress as a boy.

But back then, the solution to too much crime was to ship criminals off to the other side of the world, and that’s what happens here too. To one of them, meaning our two siblings are split up.

The last part of this book takes place in Australia in 1988, when children need to learn about what happened before; what some of their ancestors might have gone through. It’s seeing both sides, then and now, that will show today’s young readers cause and effect, and how quickly life can change.

And that has not changed.

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