Alchemy and Meggy Swann
by Karen Cushman
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
First line: "Ye toads and vipers," the girl said, as her granny often had, ‘ye toads and vipers,’ and she snuffled a great snuffle that echoed in the empty room.”
The bustling, filthy London of the 1570's is expertly described with just enough pre-Shakespearean language to give readers a sense of being truly immersed in ancient history. Ill-fortuned Meggy Swann suffers from a debilitating deformity of her legs but manages to limp about with help of crutches. In non-politically correct times, no one is hesitant to let her know they believe her ailment to be a sign of the Devil's influence. Her absent father mistakenly believing her to be an able-bodied boy, calls her to London, intending to put her to work as an apprentice and is grievously disappointed when she arrives. Left to fend for herself, curious, determined, intelligent Meggy manages to befriend a theatre troupe, makes some spare coin writing poems and short songs for a printer, and in the end, saves the king from an evil plot. She stays loyal to her best friend, Louise, a goose who is nearly as moody as she is. Throughout the book, readers are treated to poetic descriptions of food from the nearly-always hungry Meggy. Fans of Karen Cushman's other medieval historical fiction novels, The Midwife's Apprentice, Catherine Called Birdy, and Matilda Bone will greatly enjoy this sassy, challenging middle-grade novel.
I borrowed this book from the library.