Ragged Dick: Or, Street Life in New York with the Boot-Blacks by Horatio Alger
Post number thirty is for Horatio Alger's Ragged Dick: Or, Street Life in New York with the Boot-Blacks. This was another required reading for my History of Children's Literature course, and was due the same week as my previous entry, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. This is because my professor wanted us to compare and contrast the two main characters of the book to see if we thought they could take each other's places.
Ragged Dick is homeless boot-black in New York City. (A boot-black is a person who shines shoes.) Ragged Dick has a crazy good outlook on life even though his circumstances aren't great. He spends all the money he earns on frivolous things instead of trying to save up his earnings to better his life. (An example of children not having a whole lot of foresight, I think.) He meets a well-to-do boy whom he offers to take around the city. The boy makes Dick reconsider his life, and makes him want to become "respectable". He does this by setting up a bank account and finding a room to rent. He even takes in a friend as a roommate, and helps his friend get a better job. Little by little, Dick earns enough money to better his life, and also studies under Fosdick (the friend he lets room with him) to learn how to read, write, and do math, as Dick is pretty much entirely uneducated at the start of the story.
This book is a story of perseverance, and has a very lovable, outgoing, fantastic main character. He's cheerful despite everything, befriends everyone (except for Micky, a bully who tries to terrorize Dick, although Dick ends up each time getting the best of him), and is basically a story of how education can lead to a good life. There are similarities between Dick and Tom, although they're not great. (Huck is actually more like Dick in terms of his circumstances and his lack of education, I think.) Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable, fast read that I enjoyed quite a lot.