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Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

*A Pickpocket's Tale* by Karen Schwabach- young readers book review
Also by Karen Schwabach:

The Storm Before Atlanta
A Pickpocket's Tale
by Karen Schwabach
Ages 9-12 240 pages Yearling January 2008 Paperback    

A poignant story about a Jewish community reaching out to a throwaway member, A Pickpocket's Tale grabs the heartstrings right from the start.

Ten-year-old Molly Abraham is on trial for her life. A desperately poor orphan in 1730 London, she has been ratted out and arrested for picking pockets, a career chosen by many in those bleak economic times. Watching the judge sentence one after another to death by hanging, she notices a gentleman speaking to a bailiff while pointing at her. Soon it is revealed that a fellow Jew has paid to spare her life, and instead Molly is sent to America to be sold as an indentured servant.

As she is led onto the ship that will sail to the New World, she finds that nemesis Hesper Crudge is also there, along with Mrs. Wilkes, a fellow pickpocket who was kind to Molly in prison. After a long and arduous crossing of the Atlantic Molly, is greeted by Ephraim Bell, the Jewish man who has agreed to buy her. He introduces her to his family: wife Hannah; son David; toddler Rachel; and their Christian black slave, Arabella. Molly is forced to have her first bath, wash dishes, and learn how to read. Introduced to her faith for the first time, she also attends the local synagogue with the family and learns Jewish dietary rules and Sabbath laws.

Although desperate to return to London to the only life she has ever known, Molly’s poverty and fear-hardened heart is slowly warming to the kindness and stability of her new family. When the past reaches out to pull her back, Molly must make the decision which way her path will go.

This book is so good I wish I could give it more stars. The descriptions of the horrors of prison, life on a ship, and colonial New York are vivid and well-portrayed. Jewish people really did reach across continents to help those in their community under England’s “Bloody Code,” when over two hundred crimes were punishable by death. Pickpockets of that time spoke in their own language called “Flash-cant,” and a glossary is provided in the back to refer to.

This story refrains from presentism, which is using present-day moral judgments and perspectives to analyze the past, which most modern historians try to avoid as it distorts understanding of the subject. In other words, the basic wrongs of slavery and indentured servitude are not debated here simply because it was a reality of that time. Rather, the story presents ways in which a moral life could be achieved inside the framework of the laws and understanding of that period. It is powerful and at times, quite moving. I highly recommend this book.

Karen Schwabach has also written The Hope Chest.

Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

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