In the last decade of the nineteenth century, 13-year-old Maks Geless lives with his Danish immigrant family in the lower east side of New York City. One of 5 children and the oldest son, he hawks newspapers for the World Newspaper. After hustling at least five hours a day, he clears 8 cents and that's an important contribution to his family's welfare. Life is not easy then, with dirt, disease, and a depression, his family doesn't have it easy, even with renting out one of their beds to a border. Agnes, one of the daughters has the 'wasting disease' (tuberculosis) and they are saving all they can to afford a doctor for her. Then the other daughter, Emma, is falsely arrested for stealing a watch from the Waldorf Hotel where she works as a maid and is taken to the Tombs to await her trial in four days. The father's factory closes down. Maks almost gets beaten and robbed but is saved by a brave but filthy orphan girl and her wooden stick. With his parents just barely knowing English, it's now up to Maks and his new friend, Willa, to prove the innocence of Emma and somehow find enough money for medicine to save Agnes.
As usual with master storyteller Avi, there are many twists, turns, and surprises along with his well- researched knowledge that makes the time period come alive. (It makes you glad you're not living in it!)
Date read: 12/6/2011