Out of the Smoke fills a big gap in the market for really exciting Christian literature for children. With a fast-paced, refreshingly unpredictable plot, it is an engrossing story that will capture its readers.
The book is accurate history, depicting the impoverished underclass of 19th century London. It highlights the plight of climbing boys in particular, following the story of chimney sweep Billy as he tries to survive Victorian London. There are references to the new policing system, inner city crime, alcoholism, overcrowding, lodging houses, the Atlantic slave trade, and the uncontrollable gang warfare. While Wainwright depicts the horror of life in the East End, he manages to protect young readers from anything too graphic – and give a history lesson without it feeling like one.
Out of the Smoke is unashamedly Christian in its presentation of Lord Shaftesbury and his tireless campaign to introduce child labour legislation. Lord Shaftesbury presents the gospel message to Billy clearly and simply: ‘If I, a mere man, am prepared to offer you a second chance at this life, what does it say about the Master whom I serve, whose heart is immeasurably greater than mine, and whose depth of love I cannot begin to fathom? There is mercy for you Billy, here in this house, and also in the throne room of heaven’ (p.248).
I would recommend this title for readers aged 11 and over.