Cover image for Dodger
1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Harper, 2012.
Physical Description:
1 online resource (360 p.)
Target Audience:
1210 L
Michael L. Printz Honor Book, 2013
"In an alternative version of Victorian London, a seventeen-year-old Dodger, a cunning and cheeky street urchin, unexpectedly rises in life when he saves a mysterious girl, meets Charles Dickens, and unintentionally puts a stop to the murders of Sweeny Todd"-- Provided by publisher.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader Grades 9-12 7 18 Quiz 156288 English fiction.
Lexile Measure:


Material Type
Shelf Number
Internet Site XX(1028987.1) 1

On Order



Beloved and bestselling author Sir Terry Pratchett's Dodger, a Printz Honor Book, combines high comedy with deep wisdom in a tale of one remarkable boy's rise in a fantasy-infused Victorian London.

Seventeen-year-old Dodger is content as a sewer scavenger. But he enters a new world when he rescues a young girl from a beating, and her fate impacts some of the most powerful people in England.

From Dodger's encounter with the mad barber Sweeney Todd, to his meetings with the great writer Charles Dickens and the calculating politician Benjamin Disraeli, history and fantasy intertwine in a breathtaking account of adventure and mystery.

Reviews 7

Publisher's Weekly Review

This superb novel from Pratchett is relatively subdued in its humor and contains virtually no fantasy, beyond a flavoring of early Victorian alternate history. It's not only a fine Dickensian novel-Dickens himself figures prominently. It follows a sewer-scouring "tosher" and thief named Dodger, "a skinny young man who moved with the speed of a snake," who, like a knight in soiled armor, leaps out of a drain one night to protect a young woman who is being severely beaten. Two of London's most famous figures, Charles Dickens and social reformer Henry Mayhew, appear on the scene a moment later. A complex plot gradually unravels involving the identity of the mystery girl, known only as Simplicity, and the reasons someone powerful wants her dead. Making guest appearances are such luminaries as Benjamin Disraeli, Queen Victoria, and Angela Burdett-Coutts, the richest woman in the world at the time. Full of eccentric characters and carefully detailed London scenes, the tale embodies both Dickens's love for the common man and a fierce desire for social justice. Ages 13-up. Agent: Colin Smythe. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

Who would have the skill, the sensibility, and the sass to put Charles Dickens into a novel and then proceed to write that novel in full-octane Dickensian style? Terry Pratchett, of course. Like his namesake in Oliver Twist, Dodger is a street urchin (if you wanted to be a successful urchin you needed to study how to urch) who makes his way in early-Victorian London as a tosher, a sewer gleaner. One rainy night he gallantly rescues a young woman who is being beaten up, and a complicated plot is set in motion. The cast includes Dickens, minor European royalty, Disraeli, Sweeney Todd, Charles Babbage, a philanthropist named Angela Burdett-Coutts (who alone is worth the price of admission), and Queen Victoria herself -- but none of them upstages Dodger, a young man on the make and on the brink, with his own highly developed moral code. His original take on the world and his deft way with language make him a wonderful guide through sewers, morgues, theaters, drawing rooms, pea-soup fogs, and barbershops and a story of espionage, romance, action, skullduggery, double-dealing, and heroism. Its a glittering conjuring act, but theres real heart here, too, as Dodgers horizons expand to include nature, art, and love. sarah ellis (c) Copyright 2012. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* On a stormy night in early Victorian London, an able young man named Dodger rises from the sewers in response to a scream, fights off two thugs, and rescues a damsel in distress. Dodger continues to rise throughout the novel, as his love for the mysterious lady motivates this tosher (scavenger for lost coins and other treasures in London's sewers) to elevate himself and leads him to a closer acquaintance with a string of historical figures, including Dickens, Disraeli, and ultimately, the queen and her consort. While most writers would be well advised not to include such characters in their books, Pratchett manages to humanize them without diminishing them or throwing the story off-kilter. However lowly Dodger's origins, he remains the most memorable character in the book. Living by his wits and unencumbered by conventional morality, this trickster hero expertly navigates the underbelly of his city as he carries out a bizarre scheme resulting in justice and mercy. The temptation to quote sentences, whole paragraphs, and possibly entire chapters is almost irresistible, because the pleasure of reading the novel is in the language as much as in the characters and well-researched period setting. Often amusing, this Victorian romp of a novel is lovingly crafted and completely enjoyable.--Phelan, Carolyn Copyright 2010 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 8 Up-The master of humorous fantasy has taken to historical fiction like a London guttersnipe to a large helping of bangers and mash, albeit with a touch of the fantastical. Dodger is an inhabitant of the worst stews of London, who makes a meager living as a tosher, a treasure hunter in the sewers under the city. His fortune changes, literally overnight, when he rescues a damsel in distress and comes to the attention of the not-yet-famous newspaperman Charlie Dickens. Together they embark on a mission to thwart the evildoers bent on recapturing the girl. Dodger is a thoroughly likable young rogue whose exploits bring him into direct contact with some of the best-known names in Victorian England-Benjamin Disraeli, Sweeney Todd, Sir Robert Peel, and, of course, Queen Victoria herself, with whom he spends a memorable afternoon taking tea. Pratchett does a bang-up job of re-creating Old London for today's audience, complete with pathos, humor, and truly nasty descriptions of the filth, stench, and danger, all narrated in Dodger's unique voice.-Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage Public Library, AK (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Guardian Review

There's a moment as a reader, not often enough felt, when you sigh comfortably and relax, because you know you're in good hands. Such a moment occurs commendably near the start of Dodger in fact, in the very first chapter title, in which the author teases us with the notion that he is going to introduce one of the greatest British novelists to one of his best-loved fictional creations. Can it be true? Yes, for here in the opening pages of the novel, Dickens himself, known as Mister Charlie, encounters a young man known only as Dodger, as the scallywag rescues a damsel in distress from the brutal clutches of her foul husband's henchmen. A move such as this is the hallmark of a confident writer; it takes not only daring to do it, but skill, and from the first exchanges between the pair, you know it's going to work. The girl, known only as Simplicity, has escaped the torment of her loveless marriage to an unknown nobleman "from one of the Germanys", but she remains in mortal peril. Dodger and Mister Charlie agree that they are best placed to safeguard her life. In doing so, Dodger inadvertently begins to rise up the ladder of Victorian society "faster than a chimpanzee". Though the plot of the novel is relatively simple, there is as much pleasure in seeing Dodger charm, sneak and sometimes bash his way in and out of a series of dark and dangerous encounters as he seeks to protect Simplicity, as there is in reading Pratchett's prose. Here, once again, is the mark of a great writer; that we are captivated by ingenious word-building on every page. In the author's note, Pratchett admits that this is a work not of historical fiction but of historical fantasy. Yet it's founded on the well-known fact that Dickens based many of his characters on the weird and wonderful people he encountered, particularly during his less than fortunate upbringing. So, along with Dodger we meet his Jewish jeweller landlord Solomon, modelled on "Ikey" Solomon, widely held to be Dickens's inspiration for Fagin. Appearances are also made by young "Ben" Disraeli, Joseph Bazalgette and Henry Mayhew, whose groundbreaking work London Labour and the London Poor Pratchett acknowledges as the foundation of his novel; perhaps one could say the sewer that runs underneath it, for the dark and malodorously fluid subterranean life of Victorian London forms a major part of the book. Prachett's game-playing abounds; he introduces Sweeney Todd to the story, gleefully paying no heed to the twin facts that the Demon Barber is not only fictional but hadn't even been written at the time. There are some lovely jokes surrounding Dickens. When Dodger worries that Simplicity will be shut up in some bleak house, we can almost see Mister Charlie snatch his notebook from his pocket and fumble for a pencil, with that faraway look writers get once in a while. And then there's the name of Solomon's dog. At this point, your open-mouthed reviewer found himself thinking, no, he can't have called it that surely the editor would have taken it out. Perhaps it only survived redrafts through naivety in the editorial department, and yet, upon my word, here's the author in the closing pages inviting us to google what Onan means As Dodger's triumphant path ultimately brings him honour from the very highest rank of society, we cannot help but cheer not only for his success, but also for the success of this ebullient, funny and delightful novel.

Kirkus Review

Pratchett leaves Discworld to bring us something that is quite nearly--but not exactly--actual historical fiction. Dodger is a guttersnipe and a tosher (a glossary would not have been amiss to help readers navigate the many archaic terms, although most are defined in the text, often humorously). He knows everyone, and everyone knows him, and he's a petty criminal but also (generally) one of the good guys. One night he rescues a beautiful young woman and finds himself hobnobbing quite literally with the likes of Charlie Dickens (yes, that Dickens) and Ben Disraeli. The young woman is fleeing from an abusive husband and has been beaten until she miscarried; power and abuse are explored sensitively but deliberately throughout. And when he attempts to smarten himself up to impress the damsel in distress, he unexpectedly comes face to face with--and disarms!--Sweeney Todd. As Dodger rises, he continuously grapples with something Charlie has said: "the truth is a fog." Happily, the only fog here is that of Dodger's London, and the truth is quite clear: Historical fiction in the hands of the inimitable Sir Terry brings the sights and the smells (most certainly the smells) of Old London wonderfully to life, in no small part due to the masterful third-person narration that adopts Dodger's voice with utmost conviction. Unexpected, drily funny and full of the pathos and wonder of life: Don't miss it. (Historical fiction. 12 up)]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal Review

On a storm-tossed night in Victorian London, Dodger, the hero of this picaresque tale, rescues a mysterious young woman, launching an adventure involving intrigue, murder, secret identities, Charles Dickens, and, ultimately, even the Queen herself. Since so much of the story takes place in the sewers, the author's endnote explaining that during this period they were used chiefly for drainage (rather than actual sewage) might have been better placed at the book's beginning. The story of Dodger's meteoric rise from the sewers is, if largely unbelievable, whimsical and warm in tone. Unfortunately, the heroine primarily exists to be rescued, which is disappointing in a book marketed toward younger readers. The spirited, versatile voice of Stephen Briggs is, as always, an excellent match for Pratchett's playful writing. VERDICT All in all, a sweet historical adventure with more than a trace of nostalgia; possibly more appealing for adults than for younger listeners. ["Pratchett does a bang-up job of re-creating Old London for today's audience, complete with pathos, humor, and truly nasty descriptions of the filth, stench, and danger, all narrated in Dodger's unique voice," read the review of the Harper: Harper Collins hc, SLJ 11/12.-Ed.]-Victoria Caplinger, -NoveList/EBSCO Pub., Durham, NC (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.