Smith: The Story of a Pickpocket by Leon Garfield
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Source: Received to Review
Genre: Classic Middle Grade Historical Fiction
Book Description: Seconds after twelve-year-old Smith picks the bulging pocket of an old gentleman, he hears footsteps in Curtis Alley, his planned path of escape. Two men in brown appear, and from the doorway where he is hiding, Smith witnesses the murder and violent search of his victim. Terrified, he flees the scene of the crime.
A quarter of a mile off Smith stops. What has he stolen that is worth the life of a man? He stares at his loot bitterly. It is a document—and Smith cannot read.
Leon Garfield’s crisp, exuberant writing brings new excitement and high adventure to the genre of historical fiction. The Who’s Who of Children’s Literature has called Smith “a graphic, breathtaking picture of England—and particularly London—with a handful of memorable, larger-than-life characters.”
My thoughts: I am very happy that The New York Review is taking classic books and giving them another opportunity to be introduced to a new generation of readers. The books are beautiful.
Smith is twelve and living in eighteenth century London. He is a pickpocket. He is quick and hard to catch. He takes pleasure in his skill and stealth.
One day his picks his mark and empties the older man's pockets. Immediately the man is set upon by two men wearing brown, he is killed and his body searched. The killers did not find what they were looking for. Smith discovers that he has not walked away with money, but with a document instead. The problem for Smith is that he doesn't know how to read.
Taking the document back to his home in the cellar of a tavern. He and his sisters decide to try to find out what is in the document. They are sure that it will lead to some kind of a pay off for pockets.
Turns out that the document brings more trouble than it's worth to Smith. He is chased and imprisoned.
This book is full of adventure. I loved that they author gave the reader the feel of an older century London. The hero is a young boy, who is barely surviving and lives using his wits. This is sure to catch the imagination of new readers.
I found myself caught up in the story and wondering what awaited Smith around the corner. He is deceived and betrayed, but still the young man uses his brain and outwits those around him.
The book has an older feel, it was originally published in 1967. The writing style has a more classic feel to it. Even thought the writing style is different than children read today, the book is easy to follow and understand.