May 12, 2013


In my effort to read more "boy books" (I cringe every time I use that phrase and I know I should stop and that my continual use of the phrase just furthers others' belief that such a thing exists and this is a run on sentence and I absolutely ADORE what Maureen Johnson did with cover flipping) I selected Terry Pratchett's Dodger from the Hub Reading Challenge List because male author + male title character = boy book for a lot of people. 

Dodger is a "tosher" (sewer scavenger) who saves a young lady, Simplicity, he sees being abused by two men.  Dodger is tasked with finding out all he can about Simplicity, ultimately learning that she is the secret wife of a prince and this status is blocking a planned political marriage.  It becomes clear that whoever is behind the attack won't stop until Simplicity is killed.  From that point on Dodger is determined to catch the villain. Throughout his quest, he unintentionally becomes a hero, and undergoes the process of evolving from tosher to gentleman in appearance while still maintaining his tosher street smarts and experience.

Pratcher mixes humor, adventure and historical fiction to create an entertaining, intelligent story.  When I first began reading the novel, I was immediately struck by how Dickens-like it was.  The fictional names alone scream out Dickens: Dodger, Simplicity, Mrs. Sharples (sometimes pronounced Sharp Balls), etc. Then Charles Dickens was revealed as a character (he's first introduced simply as "Charlie").  Thennnnn I learn that Dodger is actually based on the Artful Dodger, a character from Dickens' Oliver Twist, which I didn't know because I haven't read that book yet.  So yeah, that's why the book seems very Dickens.

Being historical fiction, the book also features a great number of "real" characters: Henry Mayhew, Angela Burdett-Coutts, Benjamin Disraeli, Robert Peel, and John Tenniel.  Even Sweeney Todd of urban legend/literary/musical fame makes a notable appearance.

Overall, even if the reader does not understand the historical and literary connections, the novel is a great read...for boys AND girls.

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