Lucky Button ISBN: 9781406371680
Published by Walker Books, 2017
In this time-lapse story about a lonely boy who meets another lonely boy from the 18th Century, we learn lots about the Corum Foundation and the original hospital for children whose parents couldn't take care of them in Bloomsbury. Jonah is a boy with a single mum who, because of an accident is in a wheelchair and has depression as well. He is her only carer, and while he in no way resents this - they are very close - it means that he keeps school and home completely separate. His secondary school, a real one, Ashlyns School in Berkhamsted, is excellent, but he is bullied because he is a loner and has no friends, and because he shows his hurt when names are called. During a drama lesson, a rehearsal for the school play in which Jonah plays Piggy in 'Lord of the Flies', the attack scene becomes all to real, and Jonah is hurt. The teacher, his favourite because she knows he has a good voice and is supportive, hauls the bullies off, but Jonah, not being able to hide his hurt, runs out of class and off to the school chapel, the only place he feels he can be by himself to work off his anger, hurt and frustration. He does this by singing some of his and his mum's favourite songs, and in the process finds an old brass button on the floor. As he begins to feel better, he is startled when, from the organ loft, the songs are repeated. The organist is an old man dressed in 18th Century costume. When he comes down from the organ loft and demands his lucky button from Jonah, Jonah is amazed - a ghost, a real true ghost! And a ghost with a story. The rest of this remarkable book has to do with the 18th Century Coram Foundling Hospital, originally in Bloomsbury, which Nathaniel Hogarth (for it is he) lived in as a boy. He knows Jonah's name and something about his home and school problems, and he proceeds to tell Jonah about his exciting and often difficult growing-up years and how he prospered after. It is a glowing tale of being sent to kind and loving foster parents by the Hospital until at the age of five he was brought back to the rather cold regime of the Hospital to be educated and trained for menial work. His life became more and more exciting as time went on and because of his talent in music, he met Handel, Mozart (as a young and hyper-active boy) - and even King George III and Queen Charlotte! The lucky button is explained, and it's a wonderful story; during it, we learn a great deal about life for a poor boy in the 18th Century and particularly about the Foundling Hospital. This is relevant to Jonah's story because his school, Ashlyn's, was the building the Foundling Hospital moved into when the Trustees decided London had become too noisy, dirty and crowded for the children's health. Built in 1935, the school continued to be a residential one until 1951, when the Corum Foundation turned it over to Hertfordshire, since when it has become a comprehensive. Jonah's encounter with Nathaniel has been able to happen because since coming to the school he has been aware of the children who were there before him and who lived very different lives from his. Nathaniel gives Jonah the button because he knows about 'sadness and joy and music' and they share much in common before he disappears into the mist of time. There is hope for Jonah at the end of the story and hope for a friendship and that his mum will get better. It's a lovely, sensitive story about two boys who across the centuries learn about each other, and the Foreman paintings are beautiful and moving and evocative of life then and now. Super.