A 12-year-old Irish immigrant in late-19th-century New York City struggles to help support his injured widower father and younger sister. Kevin O'Donnell loves to read newspapers and secretly dreams of reporting for one, although his embittered father warns him to learn a trade. His luck changes, somewhat implausibly, when James Langley, the patrician publisher of the Chronicle, catches Kevin stealing a copy of his newspaper and, thinking him illiterate, dares him to read the front page. Kevin's analysis of the paper's style wins him a job as a messenger. As Mr. Langley somewhat abruptly discards his arrogance to become a type of father figure, Kevin faces new and ominous obstacles: his father's injury forces Kevin to assume sole support for his sister and fend off their evil landlord. Holland's (The Man Without a Face) plotting, like the characterizations, rarely rises above the pedestrian. The historical setting proves more nostalgic than precise, in part because the time is never specified. Ironically, for all the preoccupation with news, little use is made of contemporaneous events--except for portraying anti-Irish prejudice. A lackluster enterprise. Ages 8-12. (July)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999 Release date: 03/01/1999 Genre: Children's
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