cover image The Patron Thief of Bread

The Patron Thief of Bread

Lindsay Eagar. Candlewick Press, $19.99 (448p) ISBN 978-1-536204-68-1

Fished out of a river as a baby by a gang of young pickpockets called the Crowns, eight-year-old Duck has only known an itinerant life of petty larceny governed by strict loyalty to the group’s derisive leader, Gnat. In the fictional French town of Odierne, the Crowns settle in the ruins of an unfinished, unnamed cathedral, where Gnat devises a plan to keep them fed: Duck will apprentice to milky-eyed baker Griselde and from this position slip the crew coins and bread. Despite her reluctance to leave the only family she’s ever known, Duck agrees to the scheme; working alongside kind Griselde, though, Duck unexpectedly discovers a talent for baking, then settles into her new home, all the while fearing discovery. Alternating with a companionable third-person telling, interval chapters convey the first-person views of a cantankerous gargoyle affixed to the decaying cathedral roof, who laments his inability to protect, as is the “sacred charge” of a gargoyle. Brimming with intriguing medieval-era details, Eagar’s (The Bigfoot Files) tale of streets and skies boasts vividly wrought characters (protagonists are cued as white) and a satisfying, carefully paced narrative following one child’s gradual transition from street urchin to beloved community member. Ages 10–14. Agent: Victoria Marini, Irene Goodman Literary. (May)