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Alchemy and Meggy Swann

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3.51 of 5 stars 3.51  ·  rating details  ·  1,469 ratings  ·  388 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
Audio CD, 0 pages
Published April 13th 2010 by Listening Library (Audio) (first published January 1st 2010)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,506)
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Lars Guthrie
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
...more
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
...more
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
...more
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
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Esti
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
Kirby
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
...more
Kara

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
...more
Ana Mardoll
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
...more
Sarah Finley
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
Sarah Mae
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.
Ren
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,
...more
Linda Cohen
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!
Betsy Leonard
I enjoyed this historical fiction (2010) story of young Meggie who was sent to London to live with a father she has 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.
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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
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Ann
"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
...more
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.
Paula
Cushman's books are reliably good. Excellent for the younger middle years, they are both and easy and enjoyable read, while being informative.
Kelly
This was a nice little historical novel for the middle grade set, so it's pretty short, but with a surprising amount going on. First, it's set in the middle of Elizabethan England and focuses on Meggy who struggles to walk with her hip dysplasia, relying on crude crutches to get around. She's tormented for her disability, which makes doing basic things difficult. But worse than being bullied by the general public, she has been unwanted and unloved by all her family except her grandmother. She en ...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
...more
Jean
Sep 21, 2011 Jean marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mg-fiction
Recommended MG on kidlit.com.
Sarah (Goldberg) Friddle
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
...more
Qnpoohbear
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
Josiah
"Do not greet the world with your fists up, sweeting. Give folks a chance."

—Meggy's gran, Alchemy and Meggy Swann, P. 8

Living in 16th century England is not easy for a crippled girl like Meggy Swann. Of course, it's much better than if she had lived only a few decades earlier, when lameness was almost universally considered a scourge from God, a black mark to torture the evil souls of witches and other such satanic creatures. By the time that Meggy Swann has come on the scene, such a doctrina
...more
Judi Paradis
I love old English history, and I loved Karen Cushman's earlier books--especially Catherine, Called Birdy, so I was really looking forward to this book set at the time of Queen Elizabeth in the early 1600s London. While, I enjoyed this one, I didn't love it. Meggy Swann has been sent to live with her father, as her mother wants nothing to do with her. Meggy's legs don't work well and she must struggle with "walking sticks" to get around. She's been viewed all her life as marked by the devil for ...more
Erin Reilly-Sanders
To many people, Alchemy and Meggy Swann may just be another Karen Cushman historical fiction piece, but like all of her work, I found it fresh and rather enjoyable. The description of Elizabethan life was well described, smells and all, and I especially enjoyed the enactments of different professions despite the fact that the quantity made them feel a little forced, as if Cushman listed them and felt the need to include them all. This is a tiny little book with a lot packed in and Cushman manage ...more
Ally Copper
What is Meggy Swann to do? Her loving grandmother is dead, her unloving mother doesn't want her around, and her equally unloving father, who she goes to live with at the beginning of the story, doesn't have any use for her. Born with legs that don't work right, Meggy plods painfully along using uncomfortable walking sticks that hurt her hands. She comes to London during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and she soon sees that the city is dirty and unkind. Hungry, penniless, and with no one to take c ...more
Hilary
This was supremely well written and researched; I liked Catherine, Called Birdy better, I admit, but this was well done. The Elizabethan insults that Meggy and Roger slung (slinged?) at each other made the Bard himself proud, I'm sure. The plot is a little simple, which is fine, and Meggy is hard to like at first (which is the point, I believe), but overall this is a good book for the genre. It is full of some interesting characters in London and might be a good text to use with a middle school, ...more
Lisa Frase
Alchemy and Meggy Swann is set in London during the Renaissance (the era of Elizabeth I, but before Shakespeare). Meggy's father sends for her and her mother is glad to see her gone. She arrives only to discover that her father expected a son, and certainly not a crippled daughter. Meggy must learn to overcome obstacles, including self-loathing, in order to find friendship and her place in the world.

This book is appropriate for strong readers grades 4 and up. The readability level is upper fifth
...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
More about Karen Cushman...
The Midwife's Apprentice Catherine, Called Birdy Matilda Bone The Ballad of Lucy Whipple Rodzina

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