How The Other Half Lives

1 Dec

Deborah Hopkinson’s newest middle grade novel tells the story of a young immigrant’s life in America.

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Publisher’s Summary:Eleven-year-old Rocco is an Italian immigrant who finds himself alone in New York City after he’s sold to a padrone by his poverty-stricken parents. While working as a street musician, he meets the boys of the infamous Bandits’ Roost, who teach him the art of pickpocketing. Rocco embraces his new life of crime—he’s good at it, and it’s more lucrative than banging a triangle on the street corner. But when he meets Meddlin’ Mary, a strong-hearted Irish girl who’s determined to help the horses of New York City, things begin to change. Rocco begins to reexamine his life—and take his future into his own hands.

Like Eel in The Great Trouble, Rocco is a likable character who sheds light on the time in which he lives. I’ve seen pictures of tenement life, but Rocco works with Jacob Riis, the man who took these photos he made famous in his book How The Other Half Lives.

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Baxter Street Court, in the Five Points slums of New York in 1895, as photographed by Jacob Riis or one of his four uncredited assistants.

In fact, Rocco is instrumental in helping Riis take one of his most famous photos, Bandit’s Roost.

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Rocco’s story is full of ups and downs. Fortunately it has a realistic, but happy ending.

 

 

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