The Baby And Fly Pie by Melvin Burgess
|The Baby And Fly Pie by Melvin Burgess|
|Genre: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Energetic and thrilling story for middle to early teen readers, set in an alternate London and telling the story of street children given a slim chance to change their destiny. A troubling but beautiful read.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: August 2012|
|External links: Author's website|
Fly Pie, his sister Jane and his friend Sham live in an alternate London, one full of brutality and ghettos. They are rubbish kids, employed by Mother Shelley (an alternate Fagin) to pick through rich people's rubbish for profit. Their lives are hard and brutal and, often, hungry. But they still have their dreams. Fly Pie longs to become a baker. He has cold hands; perfect for pastry. Sham wants to become one of Mother Shelley's Big Boys - and, eventually, to rise as possible through the criminal ranks to become an important person in a big gang. Jane, she's a bit different. She wants more. Not more money. More integrity. Jane wants to live a life where lying and cheating aren't necessities.
When they find a kidnapped baby and its dying kidnapper, these three are given a slim chance of achieving their dreams. This baby is worth seventeen million pounds...
First published in 1993, The Baby and Fly Pie is the latest in Andersen's series of reissues of Melvin Burgess's novels for younger readers. It was shortlisted for the Carnegie prize and it's easy to see why. The imagining of this alternate London is vivid and raw and gritty and illustrates the life of a street child as it actually exists in many societies in a very accessible but shocking way for children in richer countries such as the UK.
Fly Pie, the narrator, has a distinctive and sympathetic voice. It's difficult not to like him - he's streetwise but naive, brave but scared, confused and loyal and he strives to be good even though he often fails. Jane and Sham act as foils for one another. Jane believes, almost desperately, that if she sticks to playing by the rules, to behaving with honesty and integrity, her reward will eventually come. Sham is pragmatic. His loyalty extends only so far as it's to his advantage. But, as the book goes on, he finds himself seduced by Jane's vision.
This being Melvin Burgess, the world doesn't respond to Jane's idealism as she believes it will, but amidst the cruelty and darkness, these three children communicate hope, humour, resilience and courage to their readers. This story will hold their attention from start to finish.
Others writers have taken up the theme of child rubbish sorters. Trash by Andy Mulligan is a wonderful adventure set in an unnamed South American country and featuring "dumpsite" children who earn their living by sorting through rubbish. Rubbish Town Hero by Nicola Davies is about Chipo and his sister, who work on the rubbish dumps. But when Chipo is caught trying to smuggle something out, the two children find themselves on the run, searching desperately for a new home.
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