Thursday's Child by Noel Streatfeild
Recommended for: All Ages, lovers of orphan stories
Never in the entire history of St. Luke's Orphanage had any child dared even to think about running away. But that was before the arrival of Margaret Thursday, who was not at all an ordinary orphan--as she was always the first to point out.
Headstrong and proud, Margaret refused from the start to be frightened by the harsh punishments and threats of Matron, the cruel director of St. Luke's, who bullied the children as though they were to blame for being orphans. And when life at St. Luke's no longer seemed bearable, it was Margaret who instigated the plan by which she and her two friends, Peter and Horatio Beresford, made their nighttime escape.
This proved to be the start of an exciting and unpredictable journey. England at the turn of the century comes vividly to life, as the reader meets a variety of colorful characters--from the rugged, hard-working canal boat people, to the eccentric cast of a traveling theatrical company, and the polite and proper society of the Earl and Countess of Corkberry. But the end of the story we know tat, just as the old rhyme says, Thursday's child has far to go, and we are confident that this particular Thursday's child is sure to reach her destination.
I've always loved orphan stories. Something about that nature of hard luck story, the hardships they endure, the adventure of running away, the "rags to riches" of some nature that so often follows, just grabs my imagination. Thursday's Child by Noel Streatfeild claims the title of my favorite orphan story. It has everything one could wish for in such a story: a spunky protagonist, intriguing secondary characters, a cruel orphanage Matron, a harsh environment including little food and too much work, a kind benefactor, a daring escape...
St. Luke's Orphanage is just terrible, and so are all the people who work there, someone even purposely puts soap in Horry Beresford's eyes every morning. But it is the place that brings together Margaret and the Beresfords. Margaret is spunky and headstrong, rather proud because her mother left her on the church steps with two of everything, all of the finest quality. She is stubborn, but also caring and has a strong sense of justice. Peter Beresford is quieter, quite the reader. It is because of him I chose Bleak House to keep me company on the long drives to and from orchestra rehearsal last semester. He's sweet, but all wrapped up in his imagination, which, I believe, makes me identify with him. He even manages to read while cutting the grass. And doesn't he look like the Tiny Tim in Scrooge with Albert Finney on this cover? Horry is the little one, the one who lets their true conditions slip, a large part of the reason the escape is enacted. There is also Lavinia, Peter and Horry's older sister, who works as hard as she can to earn money to support her little brothers, but unfortunately, she is not fast enough.
In true Noel Streatfeild style, everything circulates back to the stage somehow. Margaret Thursday has acting talent in her little finger. Perhaps her attitude has something to do with it. But it is largely this book that got me to read Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Because the ending is all wrapped up in it. And there is more spoilery material to the ending that I oughtn't to divulge. It is very good. I love this book. (As a side note, this book reinforces my belief that home hair dying experiences always turn out green. :P )
If you like orphan stories, if you like stories about the stage, if you like hard luck stories, or rags to riches, read Thursday's Child. It will not disappoint. There is also a sequel entitled Far to Go, which I have yet to get a hold of.