Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Hallelujah Handel

Hallelujah Handel

Douglas Cowling
Illustrator:  Jason Walker 
Picture Book
For ages 8 and up
Scholastic, 2003   ISBN: 0439058503

Thomas, Harry, and Jack are hungry and non-too clean little boys who live on the streets of London. It is a time when there was still an enormous inequality between the rich and the poor and this is especially obvious when we hear how the king is entertained as he boats up and down the river; following the king's barge is a boat full of musicians under the direction of a famous composer. The musicians play wonderful music for the usually glum king, putting a smile on his face. Waiting at the dock, the three boys hope to be able to earn a little money by carrying the musician's instruments for them. It is in this way that Handel, the composer, meets the little boy who "can't speak" called Thomas.

Almost at once, we are hooked, wanting to know why the little street boy will not, or cannot, speak. His life is so dreadful and his master "the Keeper" so cruel that we cannot help hoping that somehow Thomas, and the other children like him, will find a better way to live.

Soon after this meeting Thomas runs away. His two friends desperately want to find him and appeal to Handel for help. If they don't find their friend the Keeper will give them "a beating they will never forget."

With great skill and sensitivity the author tells us a story both moving and thought-provoking. He shows us the enormous differences between the lives of the rich in their ornate gardens and expensive homes, versus the lives of the poor who struggle to survive in the slums. Throughout the book floats the beauty of Handel's music. It is a part of the lives of so many and unlike so many other things in life, the music is something both the rich and the poor can enjoy. Not only that but Handel is determined that Jack, Harry, Thomas the "lost, lonely angel," and the many other children like them shall be saved from the misery of poverty and cruelty.

In the back of the book the author tells us the real story of how Handel helped the poor and orphaned children of London, and how the Messiah was performed in concerts to raise money for these children.