Lily, Tom and Ma Hawker are the curio collectors. They live and travel around in their caravan, unearthing treasures to sell. Once arrived at a new town the family put on a show of their ‘treasures’. Ma tells tales of their origin and provenance, Lily beats her drum and Tom collects coins in his hat. Together they dream of travelling the world.
But, life isn’t easy for the Hawker family. Ma Hawker is not their real mother and finding curios to sell is a tough job for the children. Times are often hard and 12 year old Lily feels the pressure to find enough treasure to make their lives together easier. Food is often scarce and the family need to work hard to get enough curios to get by.
Lily and Tom decide to take a chance on a suitcase full of curios being peddled by a boy they meet on their travels. However, their money appears to be wasted as the case is full of broken bits and bobs. The children are so disappointed, they don’t have money to waste, Ma is devastated. And so they move on to London to try and re-coup some much needed money.
It is here that the adventure develops as one of their curios attracts the attention, firstly of a maid and secondly by a mysterious gentleman. The children immediately feel uneasy about this character. Lily and Tom strike up a friendship with the maid, Miss Flora Merriweather, and discover just how and why a clam shell could hold so much importance. They also work together to discover why the sinister Mr Horatio Pinch is so interested in owning the scrimshaw.
The Curio Collectors is full of intrigue and mystery. It is a tale told with superb descriptive elements and fantastic illustrations, which allow us to be transported back to 1896. The characters are brave and strong and are empathetic and kind. They feel like friends and you are taken on the journey with them. I would thoroughly recommend this as a class read for upper KS2 and for children 8+ who love historical fiction.
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