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Forced to crawl through the chimneys of 19th century London, an eternally optimistic small boy struggles to survive his tortured existence long enough to see Christmas, touching the hearts of those he meets that Christmas eve and what may prove to be his last day on Earth.
‘The Climbing Boy’
The tale of a small boy, Zachariah, a so called apprentice to a mean spirited chimney sweep, Master William Johnson. Zachariah's seemingly unending suffering and exploitation does nothing to diminish his cheerful, hopeful and loving outlook. His special, touching spirit doesn't go un-noticed by those he meets on his travels. Aware of Zachariah's plight, someone is watching over him from the shadows, someone who will change his existence forever.
It’s Christmas Eve 1905 in Boston Massachusetts. Five year old Stephen is enthralled by his Grandpa telling him Christmas stories before a crackling fire. Stephen is touched in particular by the story of Zachariah, the climbing boy who became one of Santa Claus’ helpers on the Christmas Eve of 1843 in London.
Eight year old Zachariah the climbing boy, or chimney sweeps apprentice, suffers a hard enough existence for any child, a life made harder still by his master, William Johnson, a drunken brute of a chimney sweep. Yet Zachariah never seems disheartened or dispirited. Wherever he goes, young Zachariah brightens the lives of all but the meanest of the people he meets in 19th century London.
We follow Zachariah on that gloomy Christmas Eve, experiencing the hardship of being a climbing boy and meet the people he encounters along the way: the charitable factory foreman Mister Archibald, Marcos the cheerful fishmonger, the angelic Lady of a house with her young son Albert, a generous confectioner and the mean old mister Hobbins, a cruel, penny pinching undertaker.
We also meet an unhappy magician, ‘Garibaldi the Great’ and witness how the morose magician’s strangely magical hat comes into Zachariah’s possession.
While we follow Zachariah and his master on that eventful Christmas Eve of 1843, we also see that someone else is watching over them, a stranger who always seems to be in the right place at the right time.
The stranger proves to be Saint Nicholas, or Santa Claus, whose mission becomes clear when he rescues Zachariah from the clutches of Master Johnson and takes him on to be one of his magical helpers.
Never again to go hungry or cold, Santa Claus leads Zachariah into the magical night and we return to 1905. The story ends with Stephen placing a star upon a Christmas tree for his Grandpa Albert, who once lived in London back in 1843 and met a young climbing boy, a sweeps apprentice named, Zachariah.
For reviews of the novel 'The Climbing Boy' by Mark Lichterman check these links.