Jenni Spangler – MG Historical/Light Fantasy – THE ORPHAN THIEF
The Orphan Thief is a 53000-word upper middle-grade fantasy. Set in the heart of Victorian England, this gothic adventure explores the shadowy line between superstition and magic. The Orphan Thief will appeal to fans of Emma Carroll and Eloise Williams.
Unwanted and half-starved, gutsy twelve-year-old Leander ekes out a precarious existence, stealing to survive. His dreams of safety and a place to belong come true when Augustina Pinchbeck, a mysterious clairvoyant, offers him a job. Alas, it’s a trap; Pinchbeck imprisons children’s souls inside magical Cabinets, forcing them to perform as ghostly apparitions in her peculiar travelling show. Leander is now her slave.
When one of the other stolen children disappears, Leander must decipher magical texts, evade the constables and race through the wintery night to save his new-found friends. If he fails, he’ll be dragged inside his Cabinet and trapped there… forever.
My short title for struggling readers, Stop, was published by Badger educational publishers in July. I’m currently working on a contemporary humorous ghost story and a dark historical adventure, both for middle grade readers. I’m involved in community-led arts projects and previously ran both adult and youth drama classes. I have a degree in English and a love of all things that go bump in the dark.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
The Fool: Beginnings, Fearlessness, Folly
It wasn’t a sin to steal, if you only took forgotten things.
Leander had been eyeing the ugly mutton pie in the bakery window for hours. It was lopsided and slightly squashed. All day, customers ignored it in favour of plump loaves, golden apple pies and sugar-sprinkled shortbread. The pie was left alone, unwanted and forgotten.
He knew how that felt.
Each time someone went inside, hot sweet air washed over Leander and his stomach ached with emptiness. Nobody would buy the pie now. The evening grew dark and people rushed along the cobbles, pulling coats and shawls tight to keep out the chill.
Wastefulness was a sin, too, and Leander was so hungry.
He tried to find work, but nobody wanted help from a scruffy orphan with no schooling and no one to vouch for his character. People always thought he was up to no good – even when he wasn’t. If he wanted to eat, he had to steal. Honesty and hunger were in constant competition for his soul and today, hunger won.
Peering through steam-clouded glass, he waited for the wiry baker to turn his back, then darted in. He snatched the pie, shoved it into his pocket and ran.
The baker was after him. Leander sprinted up the high street, pushing between two men in top hats and dodging across the road, narrowly missing the wheels of a carriage.
“Whoa, there!” shouted the driver.
“Thief!” yelled the baker.
Leander scrambled over a wall. If the man caught him, he’d get a thrashing or worse – be taken before the law. He dashed into an alley, his panicked footsteps sending rats skittering from their hiding places in the shadows.
Up ahead warm light spilled from low windows. The inn.
If he was quick he could lose his pursuer in the crowded alehouse. He shoved the door, breathless.
“Watch it, son—” He almost collided with a man carrying tankards.
“Sorry!” Leander hopped over the legs of a sleeping drunk and squeezed between tables. Lucky he was so small and skinny. The air was stuffy-warm, heavy with tobacco smoke and the stale scent of old beer. He ducked beneath a man’s arm and kicked an overturned chair out of his path.
The baker thundered in. The gaffer was fast.
Leander dropped to the floor and crawled between booted feet and sticky puddles. This was too close. He raced to the corner and through the narrow black door to the coach house.
Cool night air washed over his flushed cheeks. The coach house was a cavernous room, with wooden beams and an earthy hay smell. The huge doors were chained and bolted – no escape there. He’d have to hide instead.
A polished black carriage waited patiently for its owner’s return.
Perfect. With any luck he’d even find something he could take back to Mrs. Smart – a dropped coin, maybe, or a misplaced card-case. He yanked open the carriage door and jumped inside.