During WWII, twelve-year-old Dory Byrne and her brothers Pike and Fish miss their dad more than words can say. When Pop enlisted and shipped off from their home in New York City’s Lower East Side to Europe to fight Hitler, he put 17-year-old Fish in charge of Dory and 8-year-old Pike. Because Fish is not yet an adult, the children need to keep their circumstances a secret from anyone in authority. But everyone else in the neighborhood knows that they’re on their own. Yet they are not alone. Armed with Pop’s mantra which they’ve heard thousands of times – “The neighborhood will give us what we need” – Dory, Fish and Pike believe in the goodness of their neighbors and experience just that.
For a time, all goes well. They receive crullers from the lady who runs the bakery. Their compassionate landlord keeps an eye out for them. And one night a week, Mr. Caputo offers the children a free seafood supper at his restaurant.
One evening, Mr. Caputo tells the children about the dumbwaiter in the restaurant, an ancient, hand-pulled elevator that leads to the upper floors of the building, which used to be a hotel but has been unused for decades. Dory’s curiosity is piqued. She’s convinced that the hotel contains immense treasures, possibly left by a pirate. Unbeknownst to her brothers and Mr. Caputo, Dory undertakes a reconnaissance mission, using the dumbwaiter to access the upper floors of the building.
When the Byrne’s landlord unexpectedly dies and their new landlord, a cruel and obnoxious man, catches wind of their situation and notifies the Department of Welfare to place the children in an orphanage, Dory knows where they must go to hide. Despite Fish’s protests that her plan is unreasonable, Dory presses on and does what she must do to save her family.
With wit and compassion, author Kate Albus offers children ages 9-12 a feisty, courageous and winsome protagonist whose understanding of what constitutes treasure changes radically through suffering hardships and experiencing “a whole neighborhood, full to bursting with treasure. Throwing it in your face every chance it got. Even – maybe especially – when you weren’t looking for it.” (Margaret Ferguson Books)
About the Author
Sonya VanderVeen Feddema is a freelance writer and a member of Covenant CRC in St. Catharines, Ontario.