Thursday, May 17, 2012

Alchemy and Maggy Swann by Karen Cushman have liked some of Cushman's books and not others.  I liked her Newbery winner, The Midwife's Apprentice, but I didn't like Catherine, Called Birdy.  Both of those books, and this one are about girls trying to make their way in Medieval/Renaissance Europe.  Cushman is really good with the medieval setting and has clearly done her research. She never misses a chance to explain how nasty and filthy London was, with rivers of sewage running down the streets.  She is also good with the language.  While I was reading this one, I kept wanting to say things like "fie," and "naught" in my daily speech. In this story Maggy is sent from the quiet town where she grew up, to London to live with the father she has never known.  Maggy was born lame, and the hustle and bustle of Elizabethan London first overwhelms her. Her cold, uncaring father is an Alchemist and as the story progresses, Maggy begins to suspect he is selling poisons to finance his alchemical research. She must decide if she will attempt to stop an evil plot and risk losing her father to the hangman's noose.  This ended up being one of Cushman's I liked because Maggy is at the same time vulnerable and feisty. The story was believable and Maggy's personality is appropriate to the time period (unlike Catherine, called Birdy, who acts like a modern teen instead of a medieval girl). Most of all I enjoyed the setting and wonderful language. (167 p.)

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