Tag Archives: pickpockets

An old-fashioned caper

15 Jan

I am always a little skeptical when celebrities turn author. I wonder if they got preferential treatment or if their fame in another area let them jump the queue and get a book deal when other, sometime better, writers are slogging away.

When Decembrists frontman Colin Meloy’s first book,Wildwood, came out in 2004, I was intrigued. I read it and enjoyed it, especially because it was firmly set in Portland. It was followed by two others in the series. All three were illustrated by his wife, Carson Ellis, best know for Du Iz Tak?

The pair also teamed up on 2017’s The Whiz Kid and the Grenadine Kid,  but the setting moves from the forests of Portland to the city of Marseille.


Publisher’s Summary: It is an ordinary Tuesday morning in April when bored, lonely Charlie Fisher witnesses something incredible. Right before his eyes, in a busy square in Marseille, a group of pickpockets pulls off an amazing robbery. As the young bandits appear to melt into the crowd, Charlie realizes with a start that he himself was one of their marks.

Yet Charlie is less alarmed than intrigued. This is the most thrilling thing that’s happened to him since he came to France with his father, an American diplomat. So instead of reporting the thieves, Charlie defends one of their cannons, Amir, to the police, under one condition: he teach Charlie the tricks of the trade.

What starts off as a lesson on pinches, kicks, and chumps soon turns into an invitation for Charlie to join the secret world of the whiz mob, an international band of child thieves who trained at the mysterious School of Seven Bells. The whiz mob are independent and incredibly skilled and make their own way in the world—they are everything Charlie yearns to be. But what at first seemed like a (relatively) harmless new pastime draws him into a dangerous adventure with global stakes greater than he could have ever imagined.

This was such a fun read! It got me thinking about that scene in Oliver!

It also saw me flexing my fingers and practicing my sleight of Hand. I imagined myself as a magician or retrieving things from pockets using only my index and middle finger. Not other people’s pockets…just my own. But don’t worry – I don’t think younger readers will be pulled into a life of crime by reading the book. And I hope they do!



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