The Eleventh Orphan by Joan Lingard

The Eleventh Orphan by the Scottish author Joan Lingard was published in 2008 and she dedicated this one in memory of her grandparents who inspired her to write the characters of Ma and Pa Bigsby.

They have a pub in Victorian London called The Pig and Whistle where they have a very full home due to the ten children that they’ve adopted. When the local policeman turns up with another homeless child in tow Ma Bigsby isn’t keen to take her in, she always said she wouldn’t take on any more than ten children at a time. Elfie, short for Elfrieda is eleven years old, and has been in trouble with the police for thieving, another thing that puts Ma off, but when she is told by PC O’Dowd that Elfie has a painting of The Pig and Whistle in her bag Ma decides to take her in. Elfie knows nothing about her parents, not even their names, but she does have a bag full of clues that might lead her to her father anyway, she knows her mother is dead.

Ma sets to work cleaning up her newest waif and Pa begins to educate Elfie as she can’t read, teaching the children is Pa’s main job, but he also has to keep Elfie and Ivy apart as they hate each other at first sight. But there’s a lot of love within this blended family which is nurtured by the wisdom and common-sense of the parents.

This is really well done, an entertaining read for adults as well as children. It’s the first in a trilogy.

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