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Splendors and Glooms Paperback – January 7, 2014


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 670L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick; Reprint edition (January 7, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763669261
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763669263
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,275 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 4-8-Victorian London could be a magical place: horse-drawn carriages, puppet shows, elaborate upper-class houses. Of course it could also be miserable: fog, filthy streets, shabby hovels where too many people live in too few rooms. Schlitz conjures both the magic and the mundane here. For Clara's 12th birthday, her parents hire a street performer to give a puppet show in their home. The puppeteer, Grisini, is so talented that he appears to be magical. His two orphaned assistants, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall, are envious of Clara's home and all its comforts. Clara vanishes the night of the puppet show, and Grisini and his assistants are the prime suspects. Then Grisini disappears, and Lizzie Rose and Parsefall must seek out the missing girl, with the sinister and mysterious help of a wealthy old witch. Schlitz uses such evocative language that readers will practically smell dirty London and then be relieved by the crisp, cold air in the countryside around the witch's crumbling mansion. The characters are recognizable tropes: the witch is rotting from the inside out; the orphans may be dirty and ill-bred, but they have spirit and pluck; the little rich girl is actually sad and lonely; the skinny puppeteer and the overly dramatic landlady are recognizably Dickensian. Yet, they are so well drawn that they are never caricatures, but people whom readers will cheer for, be terrified of, or grow to like. The plot is rich with supernatural and incredibly suspenseful elements. Fans of mystery, magic, and historical fiction will all relish this novel.-Geri Diorio, Ridgefield Library, CTα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

Newbery Medalist Schlitz delivers many pleasures—fully dimensional children, period details so ripe one can nearly smell them, and droll humor that leavens a few scenes of true horror. A highly original tale about children caught in a harrowing world of magic and misdeeds.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

A brooding Dickensian novel with a touch of fantasy and a glimmer of hope. . . Vividly portrayed and complex, the characters are well defined individuals whose separate strands of story are colorful and compelling. Schlitz weaves them into an intricate tapestry that is as mysterious and timeless as a fairy tale.
—Booklist (starred review)

Two orphans, a witch and a girl who laughs at death: Each shares the lens of protagonist in Newbery-winner Schlitz’s fully satisfying gothic novel...Schlitz’s prose is perfect in every stitch, and readers will savor each word.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Victorian London could be a magical place: horse-drawn carriages, puppet shows, elaborate upper-class houses. Of course it could also be miserable: fog, filthy streets, shabby hovels where too many people live in too few rooms. Schlitz conjures both the magic and the mundane here. . . .Schlitz uses such evocative language that readers will practically smell dirty London and then be relieved by the crisp, cold air in the countryside around the witch’s crumbling mansion. The characters are recognizable tropes: the witch is rotting from the inside out; the orphans may be dirty and ill-bred, but they have spirit and pluck; the little rich girl is actually sad and lonely; the skinny puppeteer and the overly dramatic landlady are recognizably Dickensian. Yet, they are so well drawn that they are never caricatures, but people whom readers will cheer for, be terrified of, or grow to like. The plot is rich with supernatural and incredibly suspenseful elements. Fans of mystery, magic, and historical fiction will all relish this novel.
—School Library Journal (starred review)

Few books can be called both delightful and eerie - this novel is one. Utterly transporting.
—Rebecca Stead, Newbery Medal Winner

Settle down; prepare for mesmerism: Laura Amy Schlitz is behind the curtain, ready to show us a story that has real magic lacing through it.
—Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked and What the Dickens: The Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy

Thrilling and masterful. The characters are real humans, trapped upon the page as if by magic. The plotting is relentless . . . and then resolves into a perfect crystal. The book is beautiful. You will bark with laughter and you will cry. I did.
—Adam Gidwitz, author of A Tale Dark and Grimm

A wonderfully twisty, creepy melodrama with three heroes to love, two villains to hate, and then at the end — but I won't tell, except to say it's totally satisfying.
—Nancy Werlin, National Book Award finalist and Edgar Award winner

The book builds slowly and ends stunningly.
—Chicago Tribune

[A] superb gothic novel…Vivid and strange, this latest work by Ms. Schlitz—a Newbery Medal-winner—is, like a marionette show that the orphans see one night, a spectacle "sharp-edged, exquisite, and eerily alive."
—Wall Street Journal

This thrilling Dickensian novel weaves a tale of sorcery and magic that will mesmerize with its intricate plot and wicked but endearing characters.
—Instructor

As the author unravels the mystery, she explores the many levels on which the characters themselves serve as puppets. Schlitz proves herself a master storyteller as she skillfully maneuvers the strings of this gothic tale right up to the astonishing climax.
—Shelf Awareness for Readers

Middle-schoolers not quite ready for Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus can revel in this lusciously atmospheric title of rival magicians and the children caught in their crossfire.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review)

Besides the rich language, setting and plot, SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS features an utterly delicious story that weaves its spell through the fortunes of innocent and not-so-innocent children, the cadaverous puppet master, a dying witch eager for revenge and dramatic action in a castle tower that will have readers as entranced as Grisini’s audiences.
—BookPage

t is exceedingly rare to find an author who hits it out of the park, so to speak, every single time she writes. Ms. Schlitz has written six published works for children and not one has been anything but remarkable. As adept at fairy stories as fairytales, at straight biographies or melodramatic ghost stories, at long last we see what she can do with a Dickensian setting. Result: She does wonders. Wonders and splendors with just a hint of gloom. The sole downside is sitting and waiting for her next book. If it’s half as good as this one, it’ll be worth the wait.
—Fuse #8 Production (SLJ blog)

More About the Author

Laura Amy Schlitz is the author of the 2008 Newbery Medal-winning GOOD MASTERS! SWEET LADIES! VOICES FROM A MEDIEVAL VILLAGE, illustrated by Robert Byrd, and the 2013 Newbery Honor book SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS. She is also the author of A DROWNED MAIDEN'S HAIR: A MELODRAMA; THE NIGHT FAIRY; THE HERO SCHLIEMAN: THE DREAMER WHO DUG FOR TROY; and THE BEARSKINNER: A STORY OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM, a retelling illustrated by Max Grafe. She lives in Baltimore, where she is a lower school librarian at the Park School.

Customer Reviews

The characters were wonderfully painted and the story moved quite well.
Amazon Customer
I felt like I came to know the characters -- especially the boy Parsafale -- and I hated to see them go when the book ended.
Q
Very few grammatical/spelling errors as well, which is much appreciated in kindle books.
anonymous

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Pop Bop TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 8, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
First off, if you aren't sure about this book, search again for "Splendors and Glooms" in the Kindle Store. Notice that there is a separately listed free download of the book's first three chapters, which is a much longer sample than that offered on this page. (Update: At least as of February 17, 2013 I don't see that three chapter freebie anymore. That's O.K.; the "Click to Look Inside" option will still give you a generous sample.)

Now, look at the blurbs. I'm never very impressed by blurbs, but I have to admit that if Rebecca Stead, Gregory Maguire and Adam Gidwitz are all on board, then I'm intrigued.

Now further, try to forget all of the descriptions of this book as "Dickensian". Most of the time that means the author is leaning heavily on worn out orphan cliches, excessively quirky characters with cutesy names, ridiculous coincidences, fog, and horse drawn carriages.

This book doesn't need that kind of crutch. It is written with elegance and yet restraint. It is atmospheric, but not hobbled by obscure or over-researched historical footnotes. It has magical elements, but is not a fantasy or a wand-waver.

And it has really wonderfully realized characters, each an individual and engaging personality. The villains are villainous to just the right degree. Our heroes are worthy. Secondary characters add depth and support.

Actually, it seems that Laura Schlitz does something that her blurbers, especially Rebecca Stead, do; she adds the telling detail, or the sharp little observation, or the simple descriptive touch, just where it does the most good. Nothing here is overheated or purple. Nothing drifts into tedium.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By tgroat1954 on January 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover
While I enjoyed certain aspects of 'Splendors and Glooms,' there was much about the storyline that just didn't resonate with me and I guess I wasn't alone in this; our library held Newbery discussions last week and of the five books reviewed, 'S&G' didn't place in the top three.

Here's what I like: The author is a proven talent as evidenced in 'Good Masters, Sweet Ladies,' which DID take the Newbery a few years back. Laura Amy Schlitz can recreate the mood and imagery of a time period like few authors can. I found her descriptions of the harsh living conditions in Victorian England fascinating. Her main characters, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall are assistants to sinister puppeteer Gaspare Grisini. When the trio is invited to perform at the wealthy Clara Wintermere's birthday party, Grisini embarks on a plan to kidnap the young girl, turn her into a puppet, and extract a hefty ransom from her parents. What ensues is a journey into magic and mysticism that keeps the reader guessing.

My complaints: A cluttered storyline that includes the longest death scene (by Grisini's witchy rival) I've ever read. I would have been quite content with exploring more the relationships between Clara, who is consumed by grief and guilt over the deaths of her siblings from cholera and stifling in her wealthy house of mourning, and the plucky orphans who come to her aid. Without the magic, witchcraft, mysterious stone, etc. it would have been a much more cohesive story. At about 300 pages the book relies too much on developing characters (the witch, for instance) that were extraneous. Waaay too much thrown into the mix and the really interesting characters (Clara's mourning parents and the hilarious landlady) were given too little to do.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Do you remember that moment in the film version of "The Princess Bride" where the grandfather is trying to convince his stubborn grandson that the book he's about to read is fantastic? He lures the kid in by saying the book contains, "Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles." If I had a kid standing in front me right now looking at "Splendors and Glooms" with equal suspicion I would probably tell them that the book has a witch, an evil puppet master, transformations, a magical amulet, small dogs, orphans, lots of blood, and Yorkshire pudding. And just as the grandfather's description fails to do "The Princess Bride" justice, so too does this description just wan and pale in the presence of Laura Amy Schlitz's latest. This is a book infused with such a heady atmosphere that from page one on you are so thoroughly sucked into the story that the only way to get out is through.

The witch is dying. The girl is lonely. The children are hungry. Four people unconnected until the puppet master Grisini brings them, in a sense, together. Lizzie Rose and Parsefall are orphans who have lived with the man for years, doing his puppet work with him, received almost nothing in return. When they perform for Clara Wintermute, a rich little girl who requests a performance for her birthday, they are unprepared when the next day policeman come around asking questions. Clara has disappeared and Grisini is under suspicion. When Grisini himself disappears, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall find something that makes Clara's fate seem out of the ordinary.
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