Before the dreaded plague swept through London in 1665, Michael Cornhill lived a very happy life with his foster family. But Master Cornhill by Eloise Jarvis McGraw is not a book about the plague.
The story opens with Michael returning to London after spending a winter in the countryside to escape the plague. But the London he returns to is much changed – and very few whom he knew the summer before have survived.
Alone and bereft, Michael decides to hire out as a servant. But as a person of eleven-and-a-half-years, Michael is considered too young and too small for most of his potential employers. Fortunately for Michael, Tom the ballad man takes pity on him and gives him a job selling ballads.
This is the beginning of a strong friendship between the two. Michael also tracks down Susanna, the servant girl with whom he shared a cart into London, and spends quite a bit of time helping her in the house she keeps on the London Bridge.
The long, hot London summer comes to a horrific end with the devastating fire of September 1666. The story climaxes with Michael, Tom, Susanna and Susanna’s master surviving the fire, which changes all their lives.
McGraw is an amazing storyteller – with dynamic characters set in exciting and difficult times and events. I’ve enjoyed every one of her books that I’ve read – as have my children (which include The Golden Goblet and Mara: Daughter of the Nile).
Highly recommended for ages 10 and up.