A young eighteenth century boy is telling his story to gentleman, whom he refers to throughout as “sir”. A ragamuffin on the streets, he is asked to hold a man’s horse, with the promise of a monetary award when the man comes back. True to his word, the boy resists all attempts by others to buy or otherwise take away the magnificent horse. But while doing so, he starts to realize that this horse is not just any other beast: she’s Black Bess, the famed horse of notorious outlaw Dick Turpin. And it’s just possible that the constables might want to use the boy as bait in a trap…
This is a great short chapter book, a good match for kids who are beginning to transition into longer books and, at 118 pages filled with illustrations, perfect for reluctant reader book reports. The conversational tone keeps the prose light and breezy. Despite the fact that up until the last chapter the entire book takes place in the exact same spot, there is a surprising amount of action and suspense. The wickedly subversive ending is wonderfully done, and requires an entire rethinking of the book that you have just finished reading. I can almost guarantee this will end up being used in classrooms, both to showcase good writing and to discuss how the ending might change the view of the rest of the book.
The illustrations that pepper the book are excellent as well. The cover illustration is very different from the pictures in the book. The inside illustrations are line drawings that I felt captured the tone and historical feel of the book extremely well.
All in all, this is the total package: great illustrations, great writing, great plot.