Alchemy and Meggy Swann by Karen Cushman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
When Meggy’s mother unexpectedly sends her to live with her father, a man she’s never even met, Meggy accepts this without much hesitation because her mother has never loved her. Her father wants an apprentice in his alchemy lab, although he decides that he does not, in fact, want her to assist him once he sees that: 1) she’s a girl, and 2) she needs sticks to help her walk.
Having lived in a small town up until now, Meggy immediately hates London; it’s too loud, crowded, and confusing to her. She relies on her bitterness about her disability to help her get through each day. However, once she’s there awhile, she gets used to the city and begins making friends...and becomes less bitter. And when she learns about her father’s involvement in a sinister plot, she does all she can to protect him—although he barely acknowledges her existence.
This story is interesting because it follows the life of a sort of girl not typically written about in historic London—she’s not a princess (or rich) and she has a disability. Readers might also enjoy Avi’s The Book without Words: a Tale of Medieval Magic—another book about girls in long-ago England dealing with alchemy.
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