STARRED REVIEW
April 2016

A boy immigrant makes his way in the new world

By Deborah Hopkinson
Set in 1887 against the bleak backdrop of New York City tenement living, A Bandit’s Tale is the story of a plucky Italian boy and his adventures in a new world. After 11-year-old Rocco Zaccaro disgraces his impoverished family, his parents lease him to an unscrupulous man and send him to America to work as a street musician. Without any knowledge of English or how to play an instrument, Rocco is forced to earn money for his boss, the padrone.
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Set in 1887 against the bleak backdrop of New York City tenement living, A Bandit’s Tale is the story of a plucky Italian boy and his adventures in a new world. After 11-year-old Rocco Zaccaro disgraces his impoverished family, his parents lease him to an unscrupulous man and send him to America to work as a street musician. Without any knowledge of English or how to play an instrument, Rocco is forced to earn money for his boss, the padrone. Rocco eventually gets mixed up with a pickpocketing gang and is arrested. After a daring prison escape, Rocco meets an Irish girl named Meddlin’ Mary and begins assisting the famous journalist and photographer Jacob Riis. Rocco morphs from a thief to a reformer as he tries to improve the lives of vulnerable kids like him.

Although Deborah Hopkinson acknowledges in an author’s note that the chronology and Rocco’s interactions with real-life figures Riis and Jewish reporter Max Fischel have been fictionalized, A Bandit’s Tale is historically accurate. Interspersed in the book are Riis’ photographs depicting the harsh living conditions of immigrants. Rocco’s lively narrative keeps the book from being morose, but parents may want to read along to help kids digest the history.

 

Kimberly Giarratano is the author of Grunge Gods and Graveyards, a young adult paranormal mystery.

This article was originally published in the April 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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A Bandit’s Tale

A Bandit’s Tale

By Deborah Hopkinson
Knopf
ISBN 9780385754996

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