Monday, May 17, 2010
Book Review: Alchemy and Meggie Swann by Karen Cushman (Clarion, 2010)
If you enjoy historical fiction for young people, you can't do better than reading Newbery-winning author Karen Cushman, who in this novel returns to England, the setting of several of her most acclaimed books including Catherine, Called Birdy and The Midwife's Apprentice. Alchemy and Meggy Swann takes us to Elizabethan London, where we meet Meggy, another very strong heroine in the tradition of Cushman's other novels. Meggy hasn't had an easy life--lame since birth, she is ridiculed by the villagers where she grew up, who consider cripples to be cursed by the devil. When the novel starts, she is dropped off in London with her only friend, an equally feisty lame goose named Louise, to live with her father whom she has never met. Her father, we discover, is an alchemist, who has little use for his lame daughter. Told in the first person by Meggie, this novel captures the smells, sights, and sounds of Elizabethan London, while creating an appealing heroine that readers will root for as she confronts physical, social and ethical challenges in her life with wit and humor. A poisoning scandal at the highest levels of the court and a friendship with a charming actor add to the plot. Recommended for ages 10-14.
I look forward to seeing Karen Cushman later this afternoon, when she will be signing books at Mrs. Nelsons Toy and Book Shop, our local independent children's bookseller. I hope to be able to publish a brief interview with her tomorrow if her time permits.