A Pick­pock­et’s Tale

Karen Schwabach
  • Review
By – March 26, 2012
In 1730, ten-year-old Mol­ly is a pick­pock­et on the Lon­don streets who is caught and sen­tenced to be ban­ished to Amer­i­ca. While wait­ing in prison for the trip to Amer­i­ca, two gen­tle­men come to her cell and tell her that she is a daugh­ter of Israel” and when she gets to Amer­i­ca she will be inden­tured to a Jew­ish fam­i­ly. Her moth­er died of small­pox when she was sev­en, and she has lit­tle mem­o­ry of her her­itage. Upon her arrival to Amer­i­ca, the Bell fam­i­ly pur­chas­es her as an inden­tured ser­vant until her twen­ty-first birth­day. The fam­i­ly is very good to her, even teach­ing her to read, but Mol­ly is deter­mined to get back to the Lon­don she knows. Mol­ly grudg­ing­ly learns about com­pas­sion, fam­i­ly, and the real mean­ing of free­dom through her con­tact with an abused African slave. Some char­ac­ters speak an old Lon­don dialect called Flash or Flash-cant, a secret lan­guage that thieves invent­ed so they could hide what they are say­ing. There is a glos­sary at the end with the def­i­n­i­tions of the words used in the book. Chil­dren should par­tic­u­lar­ly enjoy this aspect of the book. This is an engag­ing nov­el for young read­ers, with his­tor­i­cal­ly accu­rate infor­ma­tion about life in Lon­don and New York that is pre­sent­ed with all its com­plex­i­ty. It is par­tic­u­lar­ly use­ful as an excel­lent intro­duc­tion to the life of the Jews in New York at that time, and includes a map of New York in the 1730’s. This book was the win­ner of the man­u­script award of the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries. Ages 8 – 12.
Bar­bara Sil­ver­man had an M.L.S. from Texas Woman’s Uni­ver­si­ty. She worked as a children’s librar­i­an at the Cor­pus Christi Pub­lic Libraries and at the Cor­pus Christi ISD before retir­ing. She worked as a vol­un­teer at the Astor Juda­ic Library of the Lawrence Fam­i­ly JCC in La Jol­la, CA. Sad­ly, Bar­bara passed away is 2012.

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