Alchemy and Meggy Swann

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010 - Juvenile Fiction - 167 pages
2 Reviews
Fans of Karen Cushman's witty, satisfying novels will welcome Meggy Swann, newly come to London with her only friend, a goose named Louise. Meggy's mother was glad to be rid of her; her father, who sent for her, doesn't want her after all. Meggy is appalled by London, dirty and noisy, full of rogues and thieves, and difficult to get around in--not that getting around is ever easy for someone who walks with the help of two sticks. Just as her alchemist father pursues his Great Work of transforming base metal into gold, Meggy finds herself pursuing her own transformation. Earthy and colorful, Elizabethan London has its dark side, but it also has gifts in store for Meggy Swann.

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I guess I am a sucker for good Historical Fiction. Karen Cushman has created a character, Meggy Swann that you must feel sorry for, annoyed at and love all at the same time. Born a cripple in 1573 England, Meggy has more problems than two legs that won't work. Her mother doesn't want her and thrust her upon her grandmother. When her grandmother dies and her father, whom she has never known sends for "his child", her mother is happy to get rid of her. She considers her a curse on her business. Meggy leaves the countryside along with her only friend a goose named Louise and is dropped at the door to her father's place, an alchemist. When he realizes she is a girl, and crippled he leaves her standing in the door. Like her mother, he also considers her useless. Hungry, she soon learns she will have to overcome a lot and transform herself into someone she never knew she could become. She demands her father let her help him and asks questions to try to understand what he is doing. For the first time in her life she has made some friends. Then she finds out her father has a dark side and she must decide what to do about it. Meggy transforms herself from a despised girl who had to rely on others, to a young lady who finds her real strength. This is an excellent book for those who love the Elizabethan period in history. I will whole-heartedly recommend this book to my students. 


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About the author (2010)

Karen Cushman is the acclaimed author of a Newbery Honor book and a Newbery Medal book as well as four other popular historical novels, all published by Clarion Books. She lives on Vashon Island in Washington State.Her web site is

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