Eleven-year-old Michael Cornhill’s life has already been greatly changed by London’s Great Plague of 1665. His foster family are all gone. He survived by being sent out of the city to live on a farm, but now he’s determined to return to the city he loves, even if he’s not sure anyone there even knows him. A beautiful girl he meets on the ride to London, Susanna, becomes one new friend, but when Michael finds himself penniless and sleeping on the street, another new friend becomes his savior: Tom, a ballad-singer takes him in as a sort of apprentice and let’s him share his small room over an inn and help by selling his printed ballads.
As Michael finds his way into city life, Susanna and her Master Haas who live on London Bridge, become another refuge, and Michael is fascinated with the master’s skill at coloring maps, a job he would like to learn. As a very hot and dry summer progresses, a new danger threatens the city: fire. And there lies the climax of this exciting historical novel, the Great Fire of 1666.
All McGraw’s books are well written, as is this one. Putting the fire on the cover might have been a mistake, because it made me keep anticipating it long before it arrived, and the rest of the story is equally interesting, bringing London of the time to life admirably.