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Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier
Burning Bright is set in the Lambeth section of London in 1792 and 1793, and 13-year-old Jem Kellaway and his family have just moved there from rural Dorset. He strikes up a friendship with Maggie Butterfield, a streetwise girl who guides them through the chaotic city, including Astley's Circus. The Kellaways also live next door to the poet and painter William Blake. It was a time of revolutionary fervor in England, and Blake was a staunch proponent of individualism. Jem and Maggie visit Blake often, curious about his art and poetry and fascinated by the printing press in his living room. Through their eyes, Tracy Chevalier shows not the wonder and depravity of the city, but the influence of the times on the creation of Blake's life and work. Burning Bright has received mixed reviews with the Seattle Times saying, "Chevalier, an American who now lives in London, makes that city's rich history come alive in Burning Bright. Her story of the young protagonists and their contrasting worlds is vibrant and involving. But her portrayal of Blake, and her attempt to link his work with the children's story, are not entirely convincing."