Fans of Karen Cushman's witty, satisfying novels will welcome Meggy Swann,newly come to London with her only friend, a goose named Louise. Meggy's mother was glad to be rid of her; her father, who sent for her, doesn't want her after all. Meggy is appalled by London,dirty and noisy, full of rogues and thieves, and difficult to get around in--not that getting around is ever easy for someone who walks with the help of two sticks.Just as her alchemist father pursues his Great Work of transforming base metal into gold, Meggy finds herself pursuing her own transformation. Earthy and colorful, Elizabethan London has its dark side, but it also has gifts in store for Meggy Swann.
Amazon Exclusive: A Letter from Karen Cushman, Author of Alchemy and Meggy Swann
Dear Amazon Reader, Alchemy and Meggy Swann
started, as all my books do, with a "what if?" What if there was a man who was a poisoner in Queen Elizabeth's court? Why did he do it? How did he feel about what he did? The idea of making the man an alchemist came later. What great cover, I thought, for a poisoner. So I immersed myself in the arcana of alchemy and the alchemist's search for transformation. And then, as in all my books, the focus changed to a girl--his daughter--how she felt and what she did. Transformation? Did Meggy seek to be transformed? How and why, I wondered. And so her wabbling was born. My husband once pointed out that The Ballad of Lucy Whipple
told my own story of moving to California when I was ten, which came out in a book forty years later. The Loud Silence of Francine Green
, and in a way, Matilda Bone
, about a girl raised by a priest, and Rodzina
, about a Polish girl from Chicago like me, are all my own stories. How then, I wondered recently, is Meggy's story my own? As I wondered, I took two more ibuprofen for my painful right knee. And there it was--after dealing over the past five years with my own pain and limited mobility, I gave these problems to poor Meggy. It seems I cannot write a book that does not in some way reflect me and my feelings and my life. And just as Meggy is transformed in ways she did not anticipate, so too did my story transform into hers. She took on a life of her own, and breathed on the page. I hope you enjoy meeting her and watching her grow in strength and awareness.
Sincerely, Karen Cushman
(Photo © Crescent Studio, Vashon,WA)
From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 5–8—Cushman adds another intrepid, resourceful, courageous girl to her repertoire in this tale set in 16th-century London. Meggy Swann, deformed since birth, walks with a halting gait using two sticks. Many believe she is cursed by the devil. The 13-year-old has lived in a small village over an alehouse run by her mother and has only ever felt love from her deceased grandmother. Now she has been sent for by her father in London. The astounding sights, sounds, and smells of the city accost her, and readers see and hear them all through Cushman's deft descriptive and cinematic prose. When her father finally sees her, he is disappointed to discover that she is just a disabled girl. Roger Oldham, her alchemist father's apprentice, is leaving to become a player and she is to take his place. Meggy meets a varied cast of characters, and Roger remains her good friend despite her ill-tempered treatment of him at times. Her father, whom she nicknames Master Peevish, is single-minded in his focus, oblivious to all else. In order to do his life's work, he needs money and Meggy overhears him plotting what she believes is a murder to obtain it. Fearing his head might wind up on a pole on London Bridge, she is determined to stop him. Her courage and confidence grow with each obstacle overcome. Cushman fans who loved Catherine, Called Birdy
(1994) and The Midwife's Apprentice
(1995, both Clarion) will not be disappointed.—Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ
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