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Splendors and Glooms

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  8,987 ratings  ·  1,311 reviews
The master puppeteer, Gaspare Grisini, is so expert at manipulating his stringed puppets that they appear alive. Clara Wintermute, the only child of a wealthy doctor, is spellbound by Grisini’s act and invites him to entertain at her birthday party. Seeing his chance to make a fortune, Grisini accepts and makes a splendidly gaudy entrance with caravan, puppets, and his two ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published August 28th 2012 by Candlewick Press (MA)
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Farella I also got the same book titled Fire Spell but underneath it was 'or Splendor and Gloom' so I think you're right.
Mary Haynes The children wander around Victorian London during the first half of the book, but there's never any mention of specific historic events happening.

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Average rating 3.82  · 
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 ·  8,987 ratings  ·  1,311 reviews

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Jul 27, 2012 rated it it was ok
I must admit, I am pretty shocked at all the good reviews and high ratings I'm seeing for this book.

So no one else felt that this story just dragged on and on, and that you had to just force yourself to bite the bullet and finish it? And no one else felt disappointed with the skimpy plot and the pages and pages of useless should-have-been-edited-out-stuff about putting on slippers and walking dogs and such? Did anyone raise an eyebrow at the scary (for kids) imagery of witches burning alive, or
The Rusty Key
Sep 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
Reviewed by Rusty Key Writer: Jordan B. Nielsen

Recommended for: Ages 10 to 12 for explicit violence against children, overt suggestion of adult sexuality and alcoholism, and overall macabre tone. The third person narrative is split between two female characters and one male character, but though the male character is sufficiently boyish, the preciousness of the Victorian Gothic genre is likely better suited to girls.

One Word Summary: Dreary.

As an exercise in genre replication, Splendors and Glo
May 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012-favorites
4.5 Stars.

Any reader who has found themselves enraptured by the world of Charles Dickons will be happy to surround themselves with a similar beauty and grime in the aptly titled Splendors and Glooms. Laura Amy Schlitz utilizes her fantastical prose to steep us in the wonders of a Victorian child’s world. Children have the capacity to believe in anything, and they feel everything so acutely–such is the shape of the magic in this story.

Three children brought together through a set of unfortunate c
May 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Truly a story of "splendors and glooms" this tale of orphans, cursed jewels, magic, and mystery had an old-fashioned feel without feeling dated, if that makes sense. Schlitz, unsurprisingly, knows how to tell a story rich in every day details to help ground the plot, thus making the magical elements more shocking and more believable at the same time. Two orphans taken in and exploited by a strange, cruel Italian puppeteer? Sure. Wealthy Victorians obsessed with death and overprotective of their ...more
Mar 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Do you remember that moment in the film version of The Princess Bride where the grandfather is trying to convince his stubborn grandson that the book he's about to read is fantastic? He lures the kid in by saying the book contains, "Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles." If I had a kid standing in front me right now looking at Splendors and Glooms with equal suspicion I would probably tell them that the book has a witch, an evil puppet maste ...more
My good sense, what little I have, tells me this was a solid story. My enjoyment sense tells me this was long and boring, despite a capable narrator.
I'm torn on how I feel about this book.

I think it was too much - too many narratives, too many players, too many paths. It rides the line between middle grade and young adult levels so some of the potential depth is lost, especially among the more adult themes. A lot happened throughout this story and I felt much of it was unnecessary.

I liked:
-The c
Sep 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Simply put, this book is a gift. Laura Amy Schlitz gives and gives and gives with this novel, and she somehow makes every sentence, word, and detail completely necessary and completely perfect. That's kind of a massive accomplishment for a nearly 400-page story.

If someone ever asks me why I read children's books I won't say anything- I'll just hand them a copy of "The Graveyard Book" and "Splendors and Glooms."

Like most great art, this will be really devisive. Readers who like short and succinct
Barb Middleton
Nov 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gothic
"I think I can. I think I can." This little engine that could is chugging through the 2013 Newbery Medal list mentioned in a previous post. My non-picky  appetite seems to stack the most recently devoured book on the top of the pile making it number one for my own personal list. Argh! My top 5 are pretty much interchangeable. So many terrific books!  Glad I'm not judging the "most distinguished" book of the year... Right now I'm guessing: Splendors and Glooms, Crow, Starry River of the Sky, and ...more
Mar 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I've been having the darnedest time figuring out how to review Splendors and Glooms. I first read it back in June, I think. I gave it five stars, mentally filed it away as My Favorite Book So Far This Year, and planned to reread and review it later. I reread it this month - still great.

Here's the thing, though: I'm kind of a fangirl for Laura Amy Schlitz. She is by far my favorite author writing for children right now. I find that it can be difficult, however, to explain her genius to those who
May 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Splendors and Glooms is the type of book I wish I'd written. Set in Victorian England, rife with orphans and evil puppeters, mystery and magic, the story tells the tale of Clara, a rich girl whose supposedly easy life is not so easy at all, and Parsefall and Lizzie Rose, orphan apprentices to a puppeter who is more than he seems. The past of the puppeter and his connection to a witch named Cassandra and an intriguing stone called a fire opal draw the children into a web of treachery and evil mag ...more
Sep 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
While this book is too dense for my personal tastes, the writing is excellent with no missteps. Every character is fascinating--even the ones who seemed like they were going to be stock figures at first (that is, most or all of the adults). Nicely atmospheric of London, the English countryside, AND Venice. This isn't a particularly talky or intellectual book and probably has a wider potential audience than it would seem. It certainly has a well-earned shot at the Newbery, but is not, frankly, a ...more
Jim Erekson
Feb 23, 2013 rated it liked it
This is tricky. I've been reading so many picturebooks that I had to shift gears to rate a novel. Why? Because I spent so much more time on this book that I want to rate it higher. Just because I read it and liked it, I want to say I "really" liked it. But truth be told, I don't know how many people I'll go out and recommend: "You're going to need to read this book." Again, a five would have to be beyond 'recommendable' and into the 'must have' and 'will re-read' category, and a four would have ...more
 Linda (Miss Greedybooks)
London 1860.

Gaspare Grisini with his puppet caravan intrigues Clara Wintermute enough to beg for a performance of the fantoccini at her 12th birthday party. The orphans, Parsefall ("I ain't done nuffink), and Lizzie Rose are his helpers.

I enjoyed this story - I would call it a grim fairy tale (pun intended), it is a Newbery metal winner, but I can't say I loved it. It was kept in grimy, dark & foggy London mostly - it added to the gloomy part. The splendor was hinted at more than brought to the
Oct 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The year is 1860, and a young Clara Wintermute is looking forward to her twelfth birthday party, in which a puppeteer is coming to create a magical puppet show for Clara and her friends. While the puppet show will be enchanting, Clara is more excited to see the two children who help with the puppet show. They are unlike anyone Clara has ever met, and she actually feels like they genuinely like her, unlike her other friends. For Clara is a very lonely little girl, and it feels as if the ghosts of ...more
Nov 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in Victorian London in 1860, Fire Spell will appeal to young readers with a penchant for magical adventure and fantasy. Clara Wintermute comes from a wealthy but rather melancholy family, not surprising given that all her siblings were wiped out by cholera. She longs for some excitement in her life and this comes in the shape of the puppeteer, Grisini, a Fagin-like character and his young urchin assistants, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall (the Artful Dodger?). Unfortunately, in true Victorian melo ...more
For as well written and engaging as this book was, I found it disturbing in light of its target audience. It wasn’t just that it dealt with difficult subject matter – it’s often a good thing for young people to interact with violence and death in literature. I’m all for the violence of adventure stories or fairy tales, and I savor compassionate stories of loss such as Walk Two Moons, Bridge to Terabithia, or Belle Prater's Boy.

But this was different. It’s very obviously a children’s book – not
Christy B
I was sort of sad when I finished this. I just loved the world, and the characters, and the magic, that I really was caught up in it.

Young Lizzie Rose and Parsefall are the assistants of the master puppeteer Gaspare Grisini. When a little girl goes missing the night after they've entertained for her birthday party, everything is thrown into turmoil, and decades old secrets are revealed.

The story is set in early 1860s England, and is a fabulously weaved story of historical fantasy. People of all
Hmmmm. I'm just not sure how I felt about this one. It was taking me a while to get into it, and then I realized it's the kind of book you need to read in long sittings, not in 20 minute spurts like I was trying to do on my lunch breaks or before bed. Once I realized that, once I gave myself time to get lost in the gloom and setting, it was really gripping and I wanted to know what happened. I started to really be interested in the characters and the magic of the world. But, I still didn't love ...more
May 29, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Skin Hunger or the Bartimous series
Shelves: fantasy
Lizzie Rose and Parsefall are apprentices of a cruel puppet-master, Grisini. They are mistreated and miserable, but they have one bright afternoon--teatime with a little lonely rich girl. Then Clara goes missing and they are suspected of kidnapping her. When Grisini disappears as well, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall follow to find him in the home of a mysterious old woman. Cassandra has powerful sorceries, and the choice she offers the children could save them from Grisini's torments--or doom them fo ...more
Apr 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: j-fiction
When Clara Wintermute invites puppeteer children Lizzie Rose and Parsefall to perform at her 12th birthday, their master, Grisini, kidnaps her, turning her into a puppet the children take to the stately home of a witch, Madama Cassandra, who wants one of the children to steal her cursed jewel.

You have to admire those names.
I savored this book for both its elegant language and its masterful construction--focusing on one character and then another just as if THEY were the puppets (indeed, Parsef
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I read the first 109 pages out of 384. The writing is fine, and I like the character of Lizzie Rose, but the story is a bit, well, gloomy for me right now. I love the "poor Victorian children on their own taking care of each other" bit, and I'm aware that it could be easy to romanticize that rather miserable situation , but I would say this book maybe goes too far in the opposite direction. The kids spend a lot of time cleaning up dog poop, and Parsefall is described as being pretty gross, both ...more
Kate Forsyth
I absolutely adored this book! Laura Amy Schlitz reminds me of one of my all-time favourite authors, Joan Aiken, which is very high praise indeed. This is a rather creepy story about children and witches and a puppet-master in London a century or so ago. Brilliant.
Sep 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing

A book about puppets. Not your usual read. I didn't really think about what I was going to get myself into with this book. I only really remembered reading the summary and coming away with puppets and a witch so I was sold. Who gets to read about puppeteers ever? I enjoyed the concept of the puppets way more than I expected. It made the story original but as I was reading it and gasping at a particular part in the book I realized how original it was. It re
Splendors and Glooms is a 2013 Newbery Honor Book and kind of reinforces my idea that the Newbery Award is not about books that kids would choose to read themselves. It is about books that adults think kids should read or need to read. Which means the books are generally not popular and are not going to be books kids will pick up on their own. Splendors and Glooms is a heavy book that deals with some very tough topics like child abuse, unwanted male attention, death and evil all the while set in ...more
I think this might be the first book I've read that I'd put on the same level with JKR's writing in the Potter books. The detail. The way the story is spun. The writing. It's full of detail & imagery but not too much. But it's enough to make you see and feel and smell the settings. I'd almost venture to say that Ms. Schlitz's writing is better than JK's (and I'm not talking about Casual Vacancy here, b/c I feel like that's an entirely separate animal) as her pacing and prose are truly flawless.

Dec 04, 2016 rated it liked it
I finished this a week ago and have been putting off reviewing it because I'm not sure what to say. I liked some things about it and felt less certain about others. I enjoyed the plot but it did feel a bit dark, maybe rather dark...and it moved slowly. It took me longer to read than I would have expected even though I was enjoying it. I also wonder about the target audience. I teach 3rd grade and definitely wouldn't read it to/recommend it to 3rd graders. But I am not even sure I'd recommend it ...more
Aug 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading this suspense-filled tale of magic and mystery set in 1860 London and Strachan's Ghyll in 1861. While it takes awhile for all the connections among the characters to be revealed, I appreciated being given the time to figure out what each one's secret was. This is one of those books in which it's hard to decide which person is most evil: Cassandra the witch or her archnemesis, the puppet master. Clearly, the author has more sympathy for Cassandra since she reveals aspects of the ...more
Oct 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Uncovering Gaspare Grisini's criminal past linked to the 12 year old Clara Wintermute's capture and transformation into a puppet, the only way to break the curse is to steal a rare gem called a fire opal. Lizzie Rose and Parsefall, learning the danger, gets lured to live with Gaspare's arch-nemesis, Cassandra Sagredo's trap which is designed to steal the fire opal causing burning death to anyone who inherits it.

Parsefall, a fairly mischievous boy with a tragic past, is a dark, scared, and a myst
Lu Benke
Death, temptation, religion--they are all in here. But the charm of the book for me was in the puppetry-related scenes and the descriptions of the settings. I'm no longer a big fan of fantasy where all things are possible and the deus ex machina reigns supreme, but the magical elements in this book are actually minimal. It is more a story about the characters. The book decidedly got more interesting to me when Cassandra came on the scene. She's the witch, but she is more like a not-nice-yet-stil ...more
Linda Lipko
Nov 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
While I didn't particularly like her Newbery Medal Award winning book Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!, I very much liked this one!

Fairy tale like, containing a cast of young children trying to escape an evil and then not so evil witch, and a mean, nasty puppetmaster/magician, beauty and creativity abound in Splendors and Glooms.

Set in London during the time when street urchins abounded, when poverty was soul numbing and brutal, without a safety net, those who are widowed or orphaned must somehow sur
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Children's Books: An Honor book from 2013 - November 2016 - Splendors and Glooms 25 44 Dec 10, 2016 07:35PM  
Enjoyed! 2 8 Jan 07, 2014 02:35PM  
Madison Mega-Mara...: This topic has been closed to new comments. Splendors and Glooms 3 5 Feb 25, 2013 04:39PM  

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Laura Amy Schlitz is an American author of children's literature. She is a librarian and storyteller at The Park School in Brooklandville, Maryland.

She received the 2008 Newbery Medal for her children's book entitled Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village,[1] and the 2013 Newbery Honor for her children's book, Splendors and Glooms.[2] She also won the 2016 Scott O'Dell Award fo

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