Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Alchemy and Meggy Swann

Alchemy and Meggy Swann

Karen Cushman
Historical Fiction
For ages 12 and up
Clarion Books, 2011   ISBN: 978-0547577128

Meggy Swann has always lived in a little village in her mother’s alehouse. She is therefore completely unprepared when her mother sends Meggy to live with the girl’s father in the great city of London. Apparently, Meggy’s father, an alchemist, asked to have his child sent to him. What he does not know is that his child is not a son. Instead, she is a daughter, a daughter who has crooked legs and who has difficulty just getting around. The alchemist, or “Mr. Peevish” as his daughter calls him, wanted to have someone who could help him with his very important experiments. Now, instead, he has a crippled and bad tempered daughter to provide for who will surely be of no use to him at all.

At first Meggy hates and despises London. It is a filthy, noisy place and she wishes with all her heart that she could go back to her village. Then, as the days pass and Meggy comes to terms with her new life, she starts to discover that London might actually have something to offer a girl like her. Here amongst the teeming multitudes of people, Meggy meets individuals are able to look past her crooked legs and ungainly walk. They see Meggy’s pretty face and they believe that there is a good person behind her scowls and oaths. These people are kind and generous, and Meggy learns, to her amazement, that she likes having friends.

Once again, Karen Cushman gives her readers a work of historical fiction that pulses with life. She gives us a picture of Elizabethan London, and shows us what it must have been like to live in this city at this time. Through Meggy’s story, readers discover that even in the most difficult of situations there are times when we have to lower our guard to let friendship in.

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