I was hooked into the story of Jaffy Brown, London 1857. He lives in a poor part of London, makes his way in life working hard, no mention of school or education, but there are many wonderful people in his life. It's a story about making the best of opportunities. This is not Dickensian, depressing or melancholic as the story is told in an upbeat manner, characters are drawn believably and we really care about them. Jaffy meets Jamrach (a real person in London 1800's) and works with the exotic animals in Jamrach's shop. Then a rich gentleman orders a dragon, so Jaffy goes to sea with Dan, the animal hunter, to try and find one.
Loved every minute of this novel and I'll search out the other novels by Birch. Well worth reading and passing on.