Review: Fagin’s Girl by Karen McCombie


Orphan Ettie Shaw is penniless and homeless on the streets of London when she is spotted by her older brother, Joe. Joe has fallen in with a notorious pickpocket gang run by a man called Fagin, and Ettie has to disguise herself as a boy so she can go back with him to Fagin’s lair. At first Ettie is able to help out with mending and other domestic jobs, but when one of the other boys falls ill, Fagin demands that Ettie go out pickpocketing with Joe – and everything goes horribly wrong…


A story with heartbreak and hope, family bonds and love.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story, a wonderful blend of fiction (inspired by Oliver Twist) and historical facts. It teaches well about children living in poverty during Victorian times, as well as being an engaging adventure that bonds you to the characters. It is a thought-provoking look at hardship and survival.

I liked learning more about deportation and the realisation that it wasn’t all big, burly, male criminals that were sent away, young children were too. I appreciated the follow-up to know what happened to Ettie and Joe later in life and that there bond remained across the years and miles.

As with other Barrington Stoke books this is an accessible, easy-read for children, that doesn’t hold back from issues and impactful plot lines.

The illustrations are wonderful, helping to imagine the world during the Victorian era.

Thank you to Barrington Stoke for sending me the copy to review.

Author Bio

Highly-acclaimed and much-loved children’s author Karen McCombie has had more than 90 books published. Her latest novel is ‘HOW TO BE A HUMAN’, the story of a stranded alien and the two unlikely school friends who discover him (Little Tiger). Coming soon: ‘FAGIN’S GIRL’, a quick-read novel inspired by Oliver Twist’s infamous gang! (Barrington Stoke. March ’22).

Other recent novels include ‘THE GIRL WITH HER HEAD IN THE CLOUDS’, a fictionalised account of the early life of the daredevil Dolly Shepherd, a teenage parachutist/aeronaut of the Edwardian era, funny younger read ‘GRANNY’S LITTLE MONSTERS’ (both Barrington Stoke), plus Carnegie-nominated and ‘Sunday Times’ and ‘Times’ Children’s Book of the Week ‘LITTLE BIRD FLIES’ and its partner novel ‘LITTLE BIRD LANDS’ (Nosy Crow).

In a past life, Karen worked as a journalist on teenage girls’ magazines such as ‘Just 17’ and ‘Sugar’. Her hobbies include scribbling random observations in notebooks, brushing cat hair from the keyboard of her laptop, walking her scruffy dog and posting nonsense on Instagram.

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