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Beggar Charlie, by Madeleine McLaughlin, a Tween adventure available from MuseItUp publishing is a short story set in a time frame when children were not cherished, and life is not all that valued.
Orphaned when he woke to find his mother had died beside him somewhere throughout the night, Charlie is sold into the sailing life under Captain Butler, a man who keeps him close against the river rats that would set upon the boy without a second thought. Living at sea is a brutal life under the best of times, but when you are barely as high as a knee cap and you’re grieving your mother, it can be terrifying.
Captain Butler sails them to China, gifts him and the next oldest boy Hickory Dick the first shore time…but the China shores are in unrest and the people, many of them addicted to the vagaries of Opium, angry.
Walking the streets of this strange land where people speak “China-talk” they find a native lad Tang who invites the boys to his father’s house for some hospitality. What they find will bring three lads together to brave the world as they seek refuge somewhere for them to live out their childhoods together.
Leaving the house of violent death, Tang now a part of their little unit watch the captain tossed overboard and the ship…sink.
The three boys set off, watching each other’s back heading for Tang’s aunt in Shanghai and the hope of a future three boys can share and find comfort in.
Family, they learn, can come from those not attached to you by blood. Some comes through shared experience, shared concern for making it through times no longer anything remotely like what they expected.
This is a beautiful, touching story about courage in the face of terrible necessity, and opening your heart, soul, and beliefs to those who might be strangers but are more important to you now that you have survived so much, than the very breath you breathe.
This is a powerful short story I cannot recommend highly enough.
In a time where we look at others and call them names because we have nothing important to otherwise focus our inner powers on, I found this a story that any and every teacher should make required reading.
Well Done, Ms. McLaughlin
FIVE STARS easily..wish I could give it more.
Read an Excerpt
and along China-land. I use senses I haven’t thought of for months, almost tasting the
food’s delicious scents that float through the air, while touching my finally steady feet
solidly on the planks. For a while, I can leave worm-filled ship grub behind and walk
as proper as the highest born lord.
The air carries a tumult of voices up to me. Not one word I’m able to understand.
These China-men stand around the outside of a giant brick wall, yelling and ajabbering
away like their tongues be the fastest road to Heaven itself. They be market
men, like the fishmongers in London. All about them is food and China things. This
China soil is so damp and fertile that its smell seems to grow right up into my nose. I
feel, too, that here be a place I might like.
My dream last night didn’t tell me how long I would have to wait to go ashore. I
find Captain Butler on the poop deck.
“Captain Butler.” I can run quite well onboard even though my legs are still
shaking from the fright of the storm. If avoiding the heavy ropes and pulleys of the
winches is making me a sea cur then I guess that’s what I am. It seems like a crowd of
winches are on deck and the tars are a-hauling them up to the sides, maneuvering the
taffrails and other parts of the ship. I stop short in front of the captain. “Could I go
ashore now, please, Master-sir?”
“I’ll fetch Master Richard. You there! Don’t move the winches too fast! Well,
there’s Master Richard right there. Come here, sir.” The captain’s voice is always
loud, even when we are among the babble of the riverbanks, the closest point to the
city of Shanghai’s East Gate.
“Yes, sir, Captain.” Hickory Dick’s lean body bends toward Captain Butler like a
Buy Beggar Charlie by Madeleine McLaughlin