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Genre: children's books, Genre: Middle Grade, Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Series: book review

Book Review: Alchemy and Meggy Swann by Karen Cushman

Alchemy and Meggy Swann by Karen Cushman
9780547231846, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16

Meggy Swann is crippled at a time when non-able-bodied people were thought to be cursed by the Devil. She must walk with two crutch-sticks to support her weak and twister legs. Her sour disposition doesn’t help her make friends, but which came first – the sour disposition or the near constant taunts and torments from those around her?

At the opening of the novel, she has just been shipped off from the only home she’s ever known in a country village tavern to live with her father in Elizabethan London. Having never met or heard of her father before, she has no idea what to expect. Neither does he. Neither one are happy with their situation. Meggy is stuck living in a dark, dingy, dirty house with no food or money while her alchemist father spends all his time upstairs in his laboritorium trying to find the secret to turning things into gold and finding the elixir of life.

As Meggy taps into sources of inner strength, she begins to explore London, and in doing that, unexpectedly makes some of her first human friends. She had brought with her to London her best friend, Louise, a large white goose, which unfortunately gets banished soon after they arrive. Roger Oldham, her father’s former apprentice-turned-player (as in play-acting), and his troupe led by Mr. Grimm and Mr. Merrymaker agree to keep Louise out of the slaughter house. Besides the merry band of players, Meggy also gets to know a cooper and his son, and a printer and his family.

When her father sells some men arsenic to kill off a baron, Meggy is shocked to discover her father is desperate enough to consort with murderers in order to earn money for his experiments. She comes up with a plan to warn the baron, but without confessing her father’s role. Though she succeeds in warning the baron, her father lives up to his bad character and leaves her stranded and homeless in London. Meggy is dismayed, but the biggest shock comes from finding out she has friends who will help take care of her. She goes to live with the printer and his family to take care of the babies and be an apprentice print-maker. The short novel ends with her dancing for the first time in her life, happy among friends, flirting with Roger, and not quite as sharp-tongued as she first was in the beginning.

Though I did not enjoy as much as The Midwife’s Apprentice or Catherine, Called Birdy, there is a similar brilliance in how much Karen Cushman can pack into a 150+ page novel. The historical elements are by far the most interesting, and of course, impeccably researched. There’s so much factual information packed into this slim book, and enough of a story to interest the young historical fiction enthusiast. The publisher is marketing this book toward ages 10-14, but I think a strong 8 or 9-year-old reader wouldn’t have a problem. Not for every child, but I don’t believe Karen Cushman fans will be disappointed.


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Loving the #Halloween book display @quailridgebooks!
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Gorgeous illustrations pop with foil pieces that highlight the words of this simple book, perfect for even the youngest reader. The sweetly lyrical text leads the reader from one - a tree - to many - the forest - and beyond, with each turn of the page showing more and more complex scenes through fall, winter, spring, summer, country, city, morning, and night, until we reach the end where the whole world is shining. I immediately wanted to read it again. For all ages, but especially 1-3-year-olds.
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#bookrecommendations #bookreview #bookrec #book #books #bookish #bookworm #bookstagram #booklover #instabook #instaread #read #reading #readmore #readwithme #readstagram Completed road trip book 1, including a brief review (review below).
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Does not disappoint! Another solid read in the In Death series by JD Robb. I've been reading this series since 2013, since before she came out as Nora Roberts, and I keep expecting the next book and then the next book and then the next book to dip in terms of quality of style and content and originality, but it just doesn't (thank goodness!). In #46, Dark in Death, JD ROBB almost makes a play on her own life in ways, as Eve is after a murderer who finds inspiration in a specific author's murder mysteries. Robb literally pays homage to the master of the meta, Hitchcock, with mentions of Psycho and Dial M for Murder, and I'm pretty sure the author she describes is modeled after Robb herself (physically). The plot is pretty tight and focused, but we still get glimpses of Peabody & McNab; Leonardo, Mavis, & Bella; Somerset is still off on holiday; and there is just a peek at the growing romantic interest in Nadine's life, as well as a preview of Nadine's next best-seller based on Eve's police work. I'm looking forward to a future book of Robb's that I'm sure will go into further detail either about Nadine's upcoming Oscar nomination for the first book/movie or the publication and what I'm sure will be subsequent movie of the second book. Enjoy! Weekend road trip, book 1! One of my favorite murder mystery series by the prolific JD Robb aka Nora Roberts. I discovered NAKED IN DEATH (#1) in 2003 and have been reading it ever since. So excited to see what adventure happens in #46! Pub date: January 2018
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