From School Library Journal
Grade 4-7–A luckless foundling stars in this sometimes-amusing orphan tale. When 10-year-old Solly Snow learns that he was left on the doorstep as a baby, he immediately sets off to find his true parents. His only clue is the silver spoon that Pa Scubbins had recently pawned in town. Accompanied by a bookish neighbor girl and a pesky, but clever circus performer called the Infant Prodigy, the boy has several narrow escapes and surprises before his quest ends. These mildly involving adventures are related in a sardonic tone that fans of Lemony Snicket's books might enjoy. Highlights include several interludes that mockingly describe the still-grieving Perfect Parents who may (or may not) finally clear up the mystery of Solly's birth. The cloyingly sweet, but resourceful Prodigy is an especially fun character, as she blithely charms and annoys people along the way. Sly narration injects a sense of fun to many of the happenings. Solly himself isn't particularly funny, but his determination, lightened by nervousness and occasional moments of exasperation with his companions, makes him a likable protagonist. His Victorian-style world is filled with greedy adults on the lookout for orphans to exploit. The tale loses a bit of steam when the humor takes a backseat to plot advancement, but there are enough quirky characters and funny moments to sustain readers' interest through to the unexpected, but satisfying conclusion.–Steven Engelfried, Beaverton City Library, OR
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Gr. 4-6. Umansky amusingly writes in the flap copy that after rereading Dickens, she thought, "I could do that." She soon learns, "I couldn't." That's all right, as this quest for story for middle-graders has enough Dickensian moments and clever characters to find a welcoming audience. Solly Snow, abandoned 10 years earlier at the home of a washer woman and her wastrel husband, learns his origins when "Pa" sells the silver spoon that arrived with Solly in a laundry basket. Furious, Solly takes off to find his real family. He's soon joined by Prudence, who is as sharp as her pointy nose, and annoying little Rosabel, always referred to by her circus sobriquet, the Prodigy, who knows how to bat her eyes and get her way. The short chapters, directed toward the "Intelligent Reader," are chock-full of twisty turns and high-stepping adventure. Only the ending, which finds Solly virtually back where he started, disappoints. Pair this with Philip Pullman's The Scarecrow and His Servant
(2005), another adventure full of fun and flimflam. Ilene CooperCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved