What do orphanages, mining towns, and circuses have in common? Billy Creekmore.
It's 1905, and it's not the best time in the world to be an orphan. When the reader first meets young Billy, he is an orphan living in an orphanage owned and operated by the Beadles. The only kind face the boy sees day after day is the cook/housekeeper Peggy. The "Guardian Angels Home For Boys" offers the bare basics these boys need to survive. Perhaps Mr. Beadle sums it up best, "Do you know, at first I felt quite badly about serving them the dry bread and thin soups that we do. I thought it was unchristian to keep them so hungry and thin. Time has taught me differently. Now I see them in a clearer light." (24). The aptly named Mr. Colder, who owns a glassblowing shop, takes a few orphans--as the need arises--as apprentices. The boys are often eager to go. And why shouldn't they be? They can't really imagine a worse place to live...but when one boy manages to run away from his new job--new situation--Billy learns the awful truth about what awaits them all. Yes, life can get worse. When it is his turn to go, Billy knows that he will have to run away. In fact, he starts planning it out all ahead of time even before it's his time to go. But then a day or so before Mr. Colder is due to pick him up...a stranger shows up. A stranger claiming to be the boy's uncle. Billy doesn't know anything about having an uncle. But he knows that this could be the perfect way out of town and out of reach of Mr. Colder.
Billy's journey takes him from place to place. His dream--the entire way--is to find a place to call home and people to call family. Each locale--the orphanage, the mining town, the circus--is presented in detail. Each one is presented vividly.
The story is emotional and at times intense. Billy is a well-drawn character. His thoughts, his hopes, his fears, his worries are all so real and intimate. I am so glad that I read this one. I think he will be staying with me quite a while.
Review by Becky Laney, frequent contributor
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