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Alchemy and Meggy Swann

3.55  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,781 Ratings  ·  423 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 ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published October 25th 2011 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2010)
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Lars Guthrie
Feb 19, 2011 Lars Guthrie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While reading Anne Scott MacLeod’s thought-provoking essay on historical fiction in the recent, and excellent, ‘A Family of Readers: The Book Lover’s Guide to Children’s and Young Adult Literature,’ I was a little distressed to learn that MacLeod faults Karen Cushman for copping out on her heroine’s fate in ‘Catherine, Called Birdy.’

At the end of that work, Birdy lucks out when her arranged medieval marriage to an ‘old, ugly, and illiterate’ lecher is cancelled when he dies. Instead, she will we
Richie Partington
ALCHEMY AND MEGGY SWANN by Karen Cushman, Clarion, April 2010, 176p., ISBN: 978-0-5472-3184-6

You know how you'll be out somewhere and overhear two friends good-naturedly talking trash at one another? Well, here's what it sounded like in the 1570s:

"'I am not your Mistress Swann, you tottering wretch,' Meggy said to Roger as they started down Pudding Lane. She had to struggle to keep up with him, for, being straight and strong, he was not compelled to stick-swing-drag as she was.
"'Fortunate that
Patricia J. O'Brien
Karen Cushman snuck up and stole my heart with this middle-grade tale. Meggy Swann is an angry girl, who shreds people with her sharp retorts and doesn't easily make friends. But I immediately felt compassion for her and respect for her strength in the face of adversity.
The story opens in Elizabethan England with Meggy cursing, and no wonder. She finds herself alone in a "strange, dark, cold, skinny house." It was the skinny that got my immediate attention. I could see the cramped, inhospitable
Jul 29, 2015 Linda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mid-reader
I loved this book. I loved Meggy and her smart-aleckyness, I loved the description of the way she walks and could actually picture it in my head. I loved how Meggy changed & grew over the course of the novel(in just the way I was hoping). This is just the sort of book I enjoyed as a child and still enjoy as an adult!
Oak Lawn Public Library - Youth Services
Lexile Level: 810L
Pages: 176 (4.5 hrs)
Summary: In the 1500’s Meggy traveled to London, from a country village with her goose Louise. She uses two sticks to move about which makes her an outcast to most people. Her mother and father don’t want to take care of her, so she befriends some performers.
Review: It was a short story but I got tired of Meggy’s attitude quickly. The ending felt rushed and even though there was an historical fictional feel, it was too fictional to be realistic for me.
2 out
Nov 21, 2011 Esti rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Meggy Swann is yet another of Karen Cushman's bold historical heroines, making her entertaining best of a strange situation. When her mysterious father summons her to London from the country only to ignore her, Meggy, who cannot walk without the aid of two sticks, finds herself stuck, with only her pet goose for company. Skeptical of her father's alchemical experiments and determined to survive on her own in the strange, dirty city, she gathers her wits a few new (human) friends, uncovers a murd ...more
Jan 22, 2010 Kirby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
From the moment Meggy Swann wabbles on scene with a terse assessment of her new living situation with her long-absent father ("Ye toads and vipers!), I was swept up in this robustius book. Cushman transported me to smelly, raucous and mysterious London in the Elizabethan times with a deft hand and a exuberant use of deliciously old-fashioned words (gallimaufry! belike! laboratorium!). And she piles trouble upon trouble on dear Meggy -- " her legs did not sit right in her hips;" her alchemist fat ...more
Maureen E
by Karen Cushman

Opening 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."

Is that not a marvelous opening sentence? And the rest of the book doesn't disappoint. I read Alchemy and Meggy Swann right after All Clear, and it was just what I needed. Light enough to not send me back into weeping fits and with enough substance that it didn't annoy me.

Meggy is a great main character. I couldn't
Dec 29, 2011 Kara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tudor-fiction

Talk about warts and all!

I’ll admit, I came to this book reluctantly, pretty sure it was going to be Good, but in a there’ll-be-a-quiz-later, assigned reading kind of way. Surprise! I got really into it and thoroughly enjoyed the tour through Meggy’s world.

Karen Cushman brings 1570’s London to dirty, smelly, grimy life in this book. She’s done her homework, and it shows, but in a way that works for the story, not in a lets-just-jam-in-as-many-anectdotes-and-facts-regardless-if-they-fit-or-not wa
Ana Mardoll
Mar 05, 2011 Ana Mardoll rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ana-reviewed
Alchemy and Meggy Swann / 978-0-547-23184-6

I would have loved this lovely tale anyway, but I do confess to loving it even more so for its wonderfully spirited, partially crippled heroine. Hot tempered Meggy has more than a good reason to be so - saddled with hip dysplasia from birth, walking is painfully difficult, and can only be accomplished with the help of her walking sticks. It is so rare to find heroines in novels that are anything less than possessing a perfectly sound mind and body, and
Sarah Finley
May 08, 2010 Sarah Finley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alyson (Kid Lit Frenzy)
I had originally looked at this in print form but when I discovered that Katherine Kellegren narrated the audiobook then I just had to listen to it. This one was so worth listening to on audiobook. I would never have done it the same justice reading it. Usually any of the "song" or poetry sections I skim through but Katherine Kellgren sings them which adds an extra level of wonderfulness to the story. Cushman does MG historical fiction well. You can almost smell and taste things that she describ ...more
Oh my gosh, I had completely forgotten about this book until it popped up on my dash. But I don't recall much of anything about the book, except that the writing and the atmosphere really pulled you into the time period, so a re-read is definitely due.
Sarah Mae
Feb 06, 2010 Sarah Mae rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, yar
Very Good. General YA.

Meggy Swann is a young woman growing up in Elizabethan England. She has hip dysplasia and walks painfully with crutches. After her grandmother dies, her mom sends her to live with her absent father in London. He is an alchemist who has no time for anything but his work. Despite her physical difficulties, Meggy begins to make friends and a life for herself. But all of that is put in jeopardy when she overhears a nefarious plot that involves her father.
Originally reviewed on Words in a Teacup

I've read The Midwife's Apprentice and The Ballad of Lucy Whipple more times than I can count, so I was curious when I found out Karen Cushman wrote other books. Plus I was in the mood to read about alchemy. The setting is England in 1573, "after the ascension of Queen Elizabeth to the throne but before London's first theatre and Shakespeare". When Meggy's grandmother dies, her mother sends her to live in London with her father. The book opens with Meggy,
Apr 16, 2016 Ashley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At first, I assumed this was going to be like any children's book with a fairly linear story, a simple problem, and a satisfying and moral ending. I was pleased to find that there was a complex area of grey in which Meggy Swann lives. Disabled, displaced, and disagreeable, Meggy comes to find out who she really is and what things really have worth as she battles her way through London life. Her character growth is natural and amazing. The setting was just right for something like this, and the a ...more
Narrated by Katherine Kellgren. Karen Cushman is one of those authors who can make a historical period come alive for young people, featuring characters of fierce will. Meggy, disabled since birth, is dumped off at her biological father's home in London. Mostly sheltered and bullied for her disability all her life, Meggy is frightened and lonely, and mostly ignored by her father who is absorbed by his alchemy projects. Meggy realizes she is going to have to fend for herself. As the book progress ...more
Mrs. Hassig
Jan 23, 2016 Mrs. Hassig rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Karen Cushman! She wrote "Catherine Called Birdy" and it was wonderful too. You can't help but fall in love with "Meggy," the little girl in this story as well as her goose "Louise!" Lame since birth, Meggy is dropped in London to live with her bizarre father whio turns out to be an alchemist. The neighborhood folks call him "Abracadabra!" As if Meggy doesn't have enough problems because she uses walking sticks to get around than to have a strange dad. But she is a strong willed little fi ...more
Jody Lewandowski
"Ye toads and vipers!" Karen Cushman has a talent for developing characters I really care about. Meggy is no exception. A real crank, talented insult-giver, and whiney when she arrives in London. But nonetheless, Meggy holds to her principles even when those principles create a moral dilemma for her. And even the dilemma has moral obstacles. Will she act based on the good of others, or only because she's afraid for herself?

Here is a character study I enjoyed! I wanted to know how Meggy would sur
Jan 01, 2014 Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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."
It is 16th Century Elizabethan London and 13 year old Meggy Swann, with her deformed legs and walking sticks, has just arrived from the country to live with the cold and distant father she has never met. But once this father, the odd and unfriendly Alchemist, realizes she is both deformed and female, Meggy is left to fend for herself-- virtually a
The Library Lady
Enjoyable, but I am unsure how willing some kids will be to tackle the language. If they stick with it though I think that they will be drawn into it as I was.
Jan 18, 2010 Paula rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cushman's books are reliably good. Excellent for the younger middle years, they are both and easy and enjoyable read, while being informative.
Aug 09, 2015 LuAnn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a delightful book that truly lives up to its title! Methinks I've been in Elizabethan London, so well does this convey the sounds and sights and smells and people of that time and place. Meggy Swan arrives an unwanted ugly duckling at her fathers alchemical laboratorium in London with a mouthful of insults she learned at her mother's ale house in the country and her only friends, a goose crippled like herself. She learns to wabble around the city doing errands for her single-mind father who ...more
Miss Amanda
gr 5-8 159 pgs

1573, London. Sent to live with a father she's never met, Meggy feels she doesn't have a friend in the world. Ignored by her father, who is obsessed with his alchemy experiments convinced he can find a way to turn any metal into gold, Meggy wanders around the neighborhood and gradually makes some friends. When she learns that her father is involved in a plot to poison someone, Meggy must decide who she can trust with the secret and whether she should protect her father or turn him
Joan Marie
Jan 25, 2016 Joan Marie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story takes place in Elizabethan London, a place where Meggy does not want to be. Cast aside by her mother, summoned by her father (someone Meggy had never known) who decides he really doesn't want his invalid daughter after all, Meggy has to pretty much fend for herself. Though Meggy proves she is capable of helping her alchemist father in his quest to turn metal to gold, her father abandons Meggy, too. Alone, Meggy proves to herself that she is braver and stronger than she thinks and even ...more
Amber the Human
Mar 08, 2015 Amber the Human rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed Cushman's Midwife's Apprentice, but I just hadn't put her on my "list" of children's authors I read. But when I was looking for books that I could put on my Kindle for a vacation, I remembered this author. This book doesn't live up to her Newbery winning book, but it is good and the main character is very relatable and sympathetic. I'm so conditioned for story lines from books that involve this time period to think that "oh no, something really terrible is going to happen to thi ...more
Betsy Leonard
Historical Fiction 2010
I enjoyed this story of young Meggie who was sent to London to live with a father she had never met in the 1500s. The father is an alchemist, and was expecting a son to help him with his work. He doesn't know what to do with a crippled daughter, but she tries to make herself useful to him because she has nowhere else to go.
Ms. Cushman certainly tried to make the language authentic, as Meggy frequently exclaims "Ye toads and vipers!" when she is frustrated or surprised. I
Sep 21, 2011 Jean marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mg-fiction
Recommended MG on
Aug 22, 2014 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I was in middle school, I read Catherine, Called Birdy and loved it. Soon after, I got a hold of The Midwife's Apprentice, and while I didn't love it as much as the previous story, I enjoyed the rich details of what life was like in medieval England for a young person, even if those details were at times harsh and harrowing.

Now as an adult, I wanted to return to the writing of Karen Cushman and the world of lords and ladies, peasants and marketplaces, goose grease and superstitions, so I p
n 1573 ("after the ascension of Queen Elizabeth to the throne but before London's first theatre and Shakespeare") Meggy Swann arrives in London to meet the father she has never known, is accused of being a beggar and brushed off by her father. Meggy longs to go home to the country, to the brewery where she grew up, though her mother sent her away. Meggy grows angry with her father and with the world, for most people shun her because she is a cripple. Cantankerous Meggy's only friend is a goose, ...more
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Karen Cushman was born in Chicago, Illinois.

She entered Stanford University on a scholarship in 1959 and graduated with degrees in Greek and English. She later earned master’s degrees in human behavior and museum studies.

For eleven years she was an adjunct professor in the Museum Studies Department at John F. Kennedy University before resigning in 1996 to write full-time.

She lives on Vashon Isla
More about Karen Cushman...

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