Cushman, Karen. Alchemy and Meggy Swann
Clarion see Houghton Mifflin 2010 167p 16.00
978-0-547-23184-6 ms/hs E-BN
Meggy Swann arrives in sixteenth-century London at the request of her unknown father. Now thirteen, and crippled since birth by a congenital hip disease, she walks slowly with her sticks and has been tormented both by the pain and the belief that her disability is a curse of the devil. When she finally reaches the small barren house in which her alchemist father lives, she is rejected for not being the healthy son that he expected. Her father’s old apprentice Roger, who is leaving to become a player, rescues her from imminent starvation, doling out the remaining housekeeping money, teaching her how to go about the great city, and introducing her to a wide variety of colorful characters. She must find some way of supporting herself and discovers that she has a talent for rhyming and ballad-making. As Meggy becomes more comfortable in her new home, she picks up bits and pieces of overheard conversations and gossip that lead her to believe that her father is being paid to provide a poison to kill a nobleman. Her fears of seeing his head up on London Bridge makes her determined to stop him.
Meggy Swann joins the pantheon of strong and capable young women found in Cushman’s novels. Beautifully written, Cushman combines wit, humor, and mystery with the poignant tale of an unloved child. The plot unfolds gradually and believably and London is vividly evoked. This well-researched and insightful book vividly evokes life in England’s capital and offers a thoughtful and realistic look at the hardships of the time.
This is a powerful book, rich in emotion and feeling, and will surely be snatched off the shelves.
Highly recommended for all middle school collections. Ogintz, Susan
Father and daughters-Fiction