Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Dodger Book Poster Image
Clever adventure depicts Victorian streets with sly humor.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Although its lead character is entirely fictional, Dodger boasts a supporting cast filled with major figures of the Victorian Age, including Charles Dickens, Benjamin Disraeli, philanthropist Angela Burdett-Coutts, and founder of the London police force Sir Robert Peel. The author takes pains to present a realistic portrait of life on the streets during this historical period.

Positive Messages

Almost everyone in Dodger has a way of bending the truth to their own advantage, but the novel emphasizes the importance of fair play and kindness to those who are less advantaged.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Main character Dodger has a reputation as someone who bends the truth and sometimes finds himself holding property that other folks are missing. But he's also kind, loyal, and brave, and over the course of the novel he grows into a formidable champion of a young woman who desperately needs his help.


Life on the streets of Victorian London could be harsh, violent, and dangerous, and Dodger doesn't pretend otherwise. But when violence occurs in the novel, it's not presented with much graphic detail. A young woman is kidnapped and beaten, Dodger exacts physical vengeance on those who would do her harm, and there's a showdown in the sewers. Dodger also has a close shave from a razor wielded by a certain barber of Fleet Street.


Dodger acknowledges that women sometimes have children out of wedlock and that poor, desperate girls sometimes turn to prostitution to survive, but it doesn't dwell on these situations. Dodger shares a few kisses with his lady love, but they're well-chaperoned throughout the novel.


Dodger is set in the streets and sewers of Victorian London, and many of the characters, including the narrator, speak with a vulgar bluntness. Britishisms such as "shite" and "arse" are used perhaps a dozen times each, along with a few instances of "piss," "bastard," "damn," and "hell."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Given the unpredictability of the local water supply, most of the characters, including 17-year-old Dodger, drink beer, cider, and wine. But Dodger is careful not to become vulnerably inebriated.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that 2013 Printz Honor Book Dodger is a clever, fast-moving, funny, and suspenseful historical adventure set in the streets and sewers of Victorian London. The main character, Dodger, has a reputation as a thief, but his heart is definitely in the right place. There's some violence, including the kidnapping and beating of a young woman and an encounter with a crazed barber, but it's neither graphic nor gratuitous. The characters and the narrator sometimes employ vulgar terms for excrement and body parts ("shite," "arse"), along with a few instances of "piss," "bastard," "damn," and "hell." Dodger shares a few kisses with his lady love, but the two are well-chaperoned. Having children out of wedlock is mentioned, as is the fact that poor, desperate girls sometimes turn to prostitution to survive. In general, the novel presents a realistic portrait of its era.

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Written byAnonymous September 28, 2017

What's the story?

On the streets of London, 17-year-old street urchin Dodger witnesses the escape attempt of a badly beaten young woman and rushes to her rescue. With the help of journalist Charlie Dickens, Dodger gets Simplicity, as the unknown girl chooses to call herself, to relative safety. But it soon becomes clear that her former captors will stop at nothing to get her back. It will take every bit of Dodger's street wisdom -- plus assistance from the likes of politician Benjamin Disraeli and London police founder Robert Peel -- to effect a permanent solution that will save Simplicity's neck and not plunge England into war.

Is it any good?

Mixing characters from fiction with real-life historical figures, DODGER is a captivating Victorian adventure that's sure to please both fans of Oliver Twist and casual readers. Author Terry Pratchett employs a narrative voice that's perfectly pitched to the material and which offers many sly pleasures. The plot is full of suspense and twists, but Dodger often works best in its smaller moments, when the characters stop their machinations and reveal their true selves.

Slightly older teens already familiar with the setting will enjoy a richer experience with the novel's many literary and historical allusions, but Dodger can be enjoyed by wide range of readers.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Dodger's portrait of life in Victorian England. What do you think of how the novel mingles real historical figures with fictional ones? Can you think of other books or movies that do this?

  • In Victorian times, if a woman were treated cruelly by her husband, what were her options? How have attitudes about domestic violence changed over the past two centuries?

  • How have attitudes about the poor changed since the Victorian era? What assumptions did people make then that they still make today?

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