Hungry Will Sparrow is on the run. He stole a cold rabbit pie and the man who owned him announced he was going to sell Will as a climbing boy in the city. Will knows his life will be short and harsh in the chimneys. So, using his speed he is putting as much distance between himself and the angry owner as he can.
Set in 1599 this is Will's story. His mother dead and his father dead-drunk, Will has no home and has no family and has no one to care for him. His new life will be one of berries and thieving until his path crosses that of travelers and conjurers and magicians who make their money at local fairs entertaining the folk with sleight of hand and trickery. Will bounces from one character to another in search of a place to belong and a penny or two to buy some bread, an apple or perhaps some beef ribs. Eventually he finds Mr. Tidball, owner of a caravan of oddities and exhibits.
Mr. Tidball promises Will two pennies a day for his help driving the wagon and caring for the horse. The oddities include a dwarf named Fitz, a blind juggler named Benjamin and a cat-faced girl named Greymalkin. Will fears the cat-girl and looks down on Fitz for his drunken brawling. But, life is not always what it appears on the surface. Just who are the good guys and truth tellers in this world of thieves and liars.
Welcome to Elizabethan England with all of its smells, injustices, poverty and hope. These travelers are finding their way from town to town and from fair to fair to make a living. But they also offer each other the eternal gifts of friendship, loyalty, and love. If a blind man can become a juggler instead of giving up on life, what can a boy of Will's spirit achieve? How much can a boy take before he simply chooses to slip into the muck and the darkness?
This is as much a story of any era and any one of us as we look at the balls that get thrown at us and decide if we will throw them back, juggle them or simply suffer the bruises and be knocked down. 216 pages Ages 8-12 (Barb)