The Bishop’s Shadow

Book: The Bishop’s Shadow
Author: Ida Treadwell Thurston
Illustrator: Lucille Good
Publisher: Joyce E. Nolt, republished in 2001
ISBN-13: 978-1409907091 (Dodo Press edition)
ISBN-10: 1409907090 (Dodo Press edition)
Related website: available at
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 8-12
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Disclosure: Any books donated for review purposes are in turn donated to a library. No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.
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Thurston, Ida Treadwell. The Bishop’s Shadow (originally published in 1899 by Fleming H. Revell Co.; republished in 2001 by Joyce E. Nolt, 1593 Lancaster Rd., Manheim, PA 17543). It is around 1892, and thirteen-year-old Theodore Bryan, known only as Tode, lives on the streets of Boston, MA, eking a living by selling papers, lying, and stealing. He steals a purse which contains $37 belonging to Mrs. R. A. Russell. Shortly afterwards, he meets a young girl, Nan Hastings, and her “Little Brother” David who are running away from an abusive guardian. He takes them to the tenement home of his friend Dick Hunt where Dick’s mother takes them in. Eventually Nan’s industriousness enables her to rent a room in the same building. Meanwhile, Tode helps a bookstore owner who was in an accident and comes to live with the owner in his story. Also, “the bishop” sees him on the street and invites him to church. Tode is very much impressed with the bishop. Later, Tode himself is involved in an accident in front of the bishop’s house and is carried inside for care.

While pretending to be deaf and mute so he can stay there, Tode learns that the $37 he stole was intended to help a boy named Jack Finney, who has now disappeared. An unscrupulous secretary, who is only temporary, hears Tode speak and accuses him of dishonesty, so the boy runs away. Renting a room in the same building where Nan and the Hunts live, he starts a food stand business and also a brass polishing service, but influenced to reform his life by the bishop’s care, he determines to find Jack Finney and also make enough money to replace the $37. Tode learns that his real name is Theodore, so he becomes Theo. Unfortunately, a red-headed bully named Carrots, who had tried to steal his paper route, now tries to destroy his business. However, when Theo finally earns the money and goes to see the bishop, he finds that the bishop is away for several months and has become very ill. What will happen to the bishop? Will Theo ever find Jack Finney? What else will Carrots do? What will become of Nan and Little Brother? And how will Theo end up?

“The Bishop” is Phillips Brooks (1835-1893), best known as the author of the nativity hymn “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Ida Treadwell Thurston (1848-1918) was the author of The Torch Bearer: A Camp Fire Girls’ Story, The Scout Master of Troop Five, Boys of the Central, and A Genuine Lady, as well The Bishop’s Shadow. This is said to be a “true story of the 1800’s,” but while it does mention an actual person, Brooks, and may be based on the kind of influence that he had on young men, I have found no evidence that the other characters, especially Theo Bryan, were real. However, even if we assume that it is basically a fictional story, it does provide interesting study of Boston slum life. And it illustrates many good character traits, such as Theo’s generosity in carrying bread, soup, or bright flowers into the poor tenement houses; his purpose and perseverance in searching for Jack Finney; and generally his resolve to change his life so that he might follow in the bishop’s footsteps; as well as the benefits of hard work. We enjoyed it greatly as a family read aloud. As you can imagine, there is a little denominational language, but it is a generally wholesome book. There is a sequel, Theo, the Big Brother (originally The Big Brother of Sabin Street).

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