Written in the style of a picaresque novel—novels that “center on a protagonist who is not well born or aristocratic”— A Bandit’s Tale relates the story of 11-year-old Rocco, who left Italy in March 1887 and arrived in New York City under the care of a padrone, a boss man or patron. The padrone had promised Rocco’s desperately poor parents that he would give their son work in America and send his wages home.
Instead, Rocco and many other boys are forced to work as street musicians and to hand their tips over to the padrone. Daily, they suffer from squalor, hunger, and abuse.
When Rocco escapes from his padrone, he is drawn into a life of crime. But that changes when he encounters Meddlin’ Mary, a girl who works along with her father to end cruelty to animals, and Jacob Riis, a man who photographs life in the tenements in order to publicly expose the poverty and despair of those living in them.
In an exciting, accessible, and hopeful manner, this juvenile historical novel relates how the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children helped alleviate the inhumane treatment suffered by animals and children. Ages 8 and up. (Knopf Books for Young Readers)