A very unusual pursuit by Catherine Jinks

cover image City of Orphans, Bk 1. Allen and Unwin, 2013. ISBN 9781743313060.
(Age: 10-15) Highly recommended. Birdie McAdam has a beautiful voice that Alfred Bunce, the bogler, uses to lure out bogles from their dens. Bogles have been hiding for centuries and eating children who come near them. Sarah Pickles, in charge of a gang of pickpockets, wants them to find what is happening to her missing children. Edith Eames is an educated upper class woman who wants them to show her what bogles are for her research into English folklore. Both will lead Birdie into danger and change her life.
This is an exciting adventure thriller set in Victorian times. Jinks has created a very atmospheric background, bringing the seamy side of Victorian times to life in a way that young readers will be able to relate to. Life as an orphan is graphically described and Birdy's efforts not to fall into the clutches of the pickpocket gang or end up in the workhouse are vividly described. The bogles are frightening monsters that will thrill the reader. An afterword by Catherine Jinks gives interesting historical background to the story about the areas described, the superstitious beliefs of the times and the workhouses and medical practices
Birdie is a fabulous main character. She is strong and feisty, intelligent and courageous. I felt compelled to quickly finish this book to find out what happens to her, whether she is able to lure out the dangerous bogles and how contact with Edith Eames changes here. The back story of Sarah Pickles is quite scary. She is a fearsome woman, who is ruthless with the young pickpockets that she organises and she wants Birdie as a pickpocket too.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is clever, engrossing and beautifully written. I can't wait for the next instalment in this trilogy.
Pat Pledger