Maggie & Oliver or A Bone of One’s Own by Jennifer Thermes
I grabbed this off the new books shelf at my local library because I never could resist a scampish dog and it did look so old-fashioned and heartwarming. It starts out, quite sadly, with poor Oliver not quite understanding that his beloved owner, Bertie, is dead. While her relatives squabble over her inanimate possessions, no one wants her small dog and he is turned into the streets to fend for himself. In another part of Boston a young maid is fired for speaking out of turn and is sent out of the only home she’s ever known. Maggie has no where to go, nothing to eat and nothing of value except a locket that she believes may have belonged to her mother. They wander the streets of turn-of-the-century Boston separately, their paths crossing only occasionally until Oliver decides Maggie can be trusted. Both Maggie and Oliver enduring heartrending conditions while homeless, both are near starvation. Maggie finds work in a factory (despite her young age) but ends up losing her job and only chance of income when an inspector comes to the factory. Besides Oliver, her only friend is a tough character named Daniel who is quite street smart. The book does wrap up with a requisite happy ending, but for me, it was too little too late. For a book intended for children, it came out quite squarely on the side of sad. Also, although Maggie and Oliver are saved and spared, Daniel has no way of escaping the poverty he has known all his life. But once our two stars are safely in their new home, there’s not another mention of him, which will feel abrupt to readers who have grown interested the character that is drawn with the most depth.
Great for: This book does not in any way glorify poverty or homelessness. Maggie and Oliver’s plights are quite grim and their experiences will make you wince. Daniel’s complexity, wanting to help but being street smart in a sometimes dangerous way is done wonderfully.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – A woman stumbles out of an alley wearing only a blanket. Maggie wonders if an owl is seeking a mate. Maggie hops into her knickers. Oliver briefly falls in love with a poodle and wonders if she wants him. The circumstances of Maggie’s mother running off with an unacceptable man are related.
Profanity – None.
Death, Violence and Gore – The girls think Maggie will get hit with a switch for punishment, but instead she is forced out of the house. Danny is whipped by his father and gets a welt on his face when his father hits him. Oliver’s owner has died. Danny says his father would put a gun to a dog’s head. Oliver considers catching a duck. There’s a mention that dead cats go to the stew pot. Daniel says that only puppies taste good, not dogs, but that dog and kidney pie is the best. Daniel’s house is on fire and they must carry out his father. There are dead animals in the park. A man tries to hit Oliver over the head with a broom. Daniel tries to hit Oliver with a rock. Maggie learned her mother was killed in a car accident.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – Maggie takes refuge in a bar and grill. Daniel’s father is often drunk.
Frightening or Intense Things – Oliver is ordered to kill and eat rats. Oliver thinks a lot about dying. Danny’s father is a thief and Danny has plans to steal. There child labor in a Shirtwaist factor. A dog is so thin that it’s ribs show.