ALCHEMY AND MEGGY SWANN
by Karen Cushman
Page Count: 176
Ages: 10-15, grade 5-9
The year is 1573 when Meggy Swann arrives in London after traveling in a wagon “between baskets of cabbages and sacks of flour.” Her companion and friend is a crippled white goose. And like the goose, Meggy does not walk, she waddles with the aid of two sticks to support her crippled legs. She is raised by her Gran after her mother turned her back on her. Now she is summoned to live with her dad, Master Peevish, an alchemist. An alchemist who makes it quite clear his transformations, his search for gold are paramount.
Meggy must find her way alone. With willful determination she carries on, unaided, struggling as she learns to care for herself. She is angry with understandable reasons. She is befriended by a young boy, an actor, smitten by her angelic face. She has a gift of language, crude yet humorous. She can’t help but spit out threats and insults with each searing word. You have to love this impish character Cushman has created. In one tirade Meggy aims her wrath at Roger as she says,
“Go then you writhled, beetle-brained knave. You churl, you slug, you stony-hearted villain! May onions grow in your ears.”
You can’t help but chuckle as the author makes it so easy to visualize this hot-tempered gammin turning red faced, blowing off steam. If she could, she would probably stomp her foot! The streets of Elizabethan England come alive when you walk them with Meggy Swan, a delightfully quick witted soul on a virtuous mission.
Karen Cushman is one of my favorite children’s authors. Of her many works I especially liked, The Midwife’s Apprentice and Catherine, Called Birdy. Both excellent. I highly recommend Alchemy and Meggy Swann for historical fiction bookshelves in classrooms, and libraries. A great read aloud and perfect for literature circles.
Disclosure: Alchemy and Meggy Swann was sent to me by Picnic Basket for review.