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Alchemy and Meggy Swann

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  2,003 Ratings  ·  446 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
Hardcover, 166 pages
Published April 26th 2010 by Clarion Books (first published January 1st 2010)
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Lars Guthrie
Feb 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Patricia J. O'Brien
Sep 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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!
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
Ana Mardoll
May 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 F
May 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Sylvia McIvers
Meggie can't walk without pain. Her pet is a goose, not a swan. And when her daddy summoned her from the farm to London, she finds the worst pain of all: He doesn't want her after all.

Karen Cushman filled this story with the sights and smells of medieval London, lovely non-swearing insults, and a wide variety of characters: cheerful, nasty, indifferent. Maggie is not the feisty heroine who never feels sad. She knows she's too ugly to have friends, and people in the street curse her as a devil-c
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
Feb 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
A crippled girl is sent to live with her alchemist father in medieval London. After spending her life as a pariah, branded a witch and blamed for her handicap by superstitious neighbors, she has developed quite a sharp tongue and independent spirit. Her father is mostly indifferent, but she befriends his previous assistant, a boy who leaves shortly after her arrival to join a theater troupe. Like the other Cushman books I've read, this has been thoroughly researched and delights in sharing the t ...more
Ms. Kelly
the narration was amazing as always, but the content of this particular book was lackluster for me. The main character, while definitely showing growth in some ways, was almost like a caricature. There were certain points of the plot that didn't make sense to me, and some of the relationships felt forced. Not a bad book, not at all, I guess I just was expecting more.

The main character uses crutches, and at the beginning treats her physical crutches like a figurative crutch. She has been taught t
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 rated it really liked it
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
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
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.
Sep 21, 2011 marked it as to-read
Shelves: mg-fiction
Recommended MG on
Jan 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Cushman's books are reliably good. Excellent for the younger middle years, they are both and easy and enjoyable read, while being informative.
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.
Donna Dobihal Smith
I listened to this on audio and was not disappointed! The narrator, Katherine Kellgren, is excellent, each character clearly recognizable, their voice fitting to their individual personality. The story brings the listener into the time period and the author's note at the end shares interesting information about the era, including details in the story. A good one to listen to as a family, for book clubs, or for those looking for a good historical fiction.
Jul 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this simple and sweet story about a girl finding her place in the world. I was particularly sympathetic to the character and was rooting for her to overcome her challenges. Sometimes it is SO nice to read a book that provides a full story arc with closure in one volume!
Sep 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: juvenile
A girl version of The Shakespeare Stealer, but not as good.
Jun 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fun to listen to
May 24, 2011 rated it it was ok
"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
Nov 07, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: middle-grade
Cushman, K. (2010). Alchemy and Meggy Swann. New York: Clarion Books.

Hark! Mistress Cushman, you are a luminous scribe, a queen who is greatly skilled at abracadra to summon your reader across ages back into the days of....

That's enough of making your eyes suffer and bleed by me writing super ol' school. What was I trying to say there? Cushman is AMAZING at allowing her readers to enter into the past. Cushman uses historical vocabulary, tries to maintain the authentic voice of her characters and
Nov 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Attention: Spoiler Alert!!!

Positive girl, Meggy Swann
I recommend this book, Alchemy and Meggy Swann by Karen Cushman. When I first saw the cover picture of this book, it made me curious. There was a girl holding two walking sticks and a goose. The background was dark and the girl’s face looked serious. When I read the first chapter, setting of this story was London in 1500s and it started explaining about the main character named Meggy Swann. I was not familiar with London and I was not even bo
Sarah W
Ye toads and vipers!

Meggy is sent to London because her father, who she knows nothing about, summoned her. When he discovers Meggy is both a girl and a cripple, he wants nothing to do with her. Meggy's mother had been only too glad to send the girl away from being underfoot since the death of her Gran two years back. She is given a few coins and a tiny bit of food by Roger, her father's old serving boy who is now off to make his living as a player. Meggy is alone in the world, friendless save fo
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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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