An immigrant family tries to survive crime, poverty and corruption in 1893 New York City.
Earning enough money to cover the rent and basic needs in this year of economic panic is an endless struggle for every member of the family. Every penny counts, even the eight cents daily profit 13-year-old Maks earns by selling newspapers. Maks also must cope with violent attacks by a street gang and its vicious leader, who in turn is being manipulated by someone even more powerful. Now Maks' sister has been wrongly arrested for stealing a watch at her job in the glamorous Waldorf Hotel and is in the notorious Tombs prison awaiting trial. How will they prove her innocence? Maks finds help and friendship from Willa, a homeless street urchin, and Bartleby Donck, an eccentric lawyer. Avi's vivid recreation of the sights and sounds of that time and place is spot on, masterfully weaving accurate historical details with Maks' experiences as he encounters the city of sunshine and shadow. An omniscient narrator speaks directly to readers, establishing an immediacy that allows them to feel the characters' fears and worries and hopes.
Heroic deeds, narrow escapes, dastardly villains, amazing coincidences and a family rich in love and hope are all part of an intricate and endlessly entertaining adventure. Terrific! (author's note, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 10-14)Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Thirteen-year-old Maks Geless, the oldest son of Danish immigrants, makes eight cents a day hawking The World on Manhattan street corners in 1893. Newbery Medalist Avi tells his story in a vibrant, unsophisticated, present-tense voice (a typical chapter begins, "Okay, now it's the next day--Tuesday"), and it's a hard life. Maks's sister Agnes has TB, the shoe factory where Agnes and Mr. Geless work is suspending operations, and the grocer and landlord want their accounts paid. Then Maks's oldest sister, Emma, is accused of stealing from a guest at the Waldorf Hotel, where she is a maid. Amid this strife, the good-hearted Gelesses take in Willa, a homeless girl who saved Maks from a street gang. Maks and Willa must prove Emma's innocence, with the help of an odd, possibly dying detective (he's coughing up blood, too). The contrasts among Maks's family's squalid tenement existence; Emma's incarceration in the Tombs, the city's infamous prison; and the splendor of the Waldorf bring a stark portrait of 19th-century society to a terrifically exciting read, with Ruth's fine pencil portraits adding to the overall appeal. Ages 10-14. (Sept.)[Page ]. Copyright 2011 PWxyz LLC
Gr 6-8--Maks Geless, 13, and his family live in a tenement in 1893 New York City. His father and older sister work in a factory; another sister works as a maid at the new Waldorf Hotel; his mother takes in laundry; and his younger brothers are still in school. Maks works as a newsie, selling newspapers on street corners. Lately he has been fighting off a gang that is trying to steal his earnings and he has found an unlikely defender in Willa, a homeless girl his age. After his sister is accused of theft at the Waldorf and awaits trial in prison, Maks, with help from Willa and a mysterious detective, seeks to prove her innocence and defeat the gang. Avi gives his omniscient narrator the voice of an old-time movie tough guy, complete with "ain'ts" and dropped first letters ("'specially," "see 'em," "'bout"). He paints a colorful, exciting picture of city life at the turn of the last century, while not shying away from its hardships. While guests at the Waldorf live in luxury, Maks's family deals with illness, filth, and death. The plot moves swiftly, covering much in just five days. The narrative wraps up, like a gangster movie, with a shoot-out at the Waldorf. An author's note grounds the tale in history, and Avi offers additional reading and viewing options. Ruth contributes several fine pencil sketches of the main characters, placing them nicely in their environments.--Geri Diorio, The Ridgefield Library, CT[Page 94]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.