cover image The December Rose

The December Rose

Leon Garfield. Viking Children's Books, $12.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-670-81054-3

The British author rivals Dickens at creating wonderful tales of villainy set in England during the late 19th century. Garfield's prose is rich and colorful in this story of sneaks posing as patriots who steal and murder for the good of their country. Absalom Brown, a tiny chimney sweep, overhears London police inspector Creaker planning a crime, and the boy is marked for death. Fleeing down the streets, Absalom escapes, clinging to proof of the plotters' treachery with the tenacity that earns him the name ""Barnacle.'' Taken on by a good man, Tom Gosling, who operates a barge, Barnacle finds the only friends he has ever known, including Mrs. McDripper and her snappy daughter Miranda. They are all in danger from Creaker's band, skulking around the docks when a foreign ship, The December Rose, arrives. The feverish action rises to the highest pitch as the vessel's secret is revealed, and Barnacle, with his brave companions, triumphs over evil. Adults and children alike will revel in Garfield's merry, scary, swift story with endearing people to cheer for and wicked types to boo. Ages 8-12. (July)