The Boy in the Smoke

Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books

Isaiah is clever, popular and resourceful, but life has been tough recently. His dad had a serious accident and cannot work, so they’re struggling financially and are being threatened with eviction. Isaiah feels ashamed when he goes to the food bank for supplies and worries that his friends will shun him if they discover he’s poor.

Determined to make some money, Isaiah sets his sights on a prize fund for representing his school at a Victorian exhibition. When he finds out that his tower block was a former Victorian workhouse, he explores the basement for clues from the past. Isaiah is startled when he sees a boy in the old fireplace. Realising that it’s a time portal, he learns that Jacob lived in the workhouse in the 1830s. Through his research, Isaiah suspects that Jacob is in grave danger, but should he try to change the past to save his new friend?

Featuring Black main characters, this multilayered time-slip novel explores poverty from both a historical and contemporary perspective. It also highlights the strain children can feel when caring for a parent or dealing with financial worries. Gripping and thought-provoking, the tale celebrates resilience, friendship and a touching father-son relationship.

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