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Alchemy and Meggy Swann

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  2,314 ratings  ·  479 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
Shelves: fiction
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 tha
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! ...more
Emily Housworth
Sep 23, 2019 rated it liked it
A bit anticlimactic and meandering. The audiobook reader did all the heavy lifting in this one. Not sure I would’ve finished if not for her excellent voices and accents.
Oct 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Did not grab me as much as her other books do, but I still enjoyed it. I like how this author writes book farther in the past than most books. It's more common to see civil war or more recent, but she goes really far back. I have read pretty much every book by this author, and what ever my library has available I will read, I enjoy this author that much! Always female lead roles, and always very endearing characters. C+ for this book but A- for all around author.
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
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
Fred Kohn
Sep 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: young-people
I read this book because I enjoyed The Midwife's Apprentice. I don't this book quite lived up to that but it was fairly enjoyable: hence three stars. The Shakespearian insults were quite enjoyable but I thought they sometimes got in the way of moving the plot along. But I would imagine that a young person would not mind so much. ...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
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
Toads and Vipers this book wasn't for me.
Meggy's attitude got really annoying and also the book felt to rushed that the ending wasn't satisfactory.
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,
Jun 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
First Impression:
I remember loving Karen Cushman's books when I was younger and when I saw that Kathryn Kellgren was narrating this one, I had to check it out from the library. I was really excited to start this audiobook and set to some housework right off.

While Listening:
I loved the narrator right off. I expected this and tuned into Meggy's voice as she started off with a curse of "Ye toads and vipers" and went on to describe her predicament. Sent for from her estranged father, Meggy leaves th
Linda Lipko
Aug 07, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: young-adult
This is a delightful tale of Meggy Swann, a young girl hobbled by the birth defect of what would now be diagnosed as hip dyplasia. She fends for herself in un merry ole England during Elizabethan days. Those with deformities were looked upon as freaks marked by the devil.

It is obvious that the author researched the time period. Cushman is a Newbery honor and medal winner for good reason.

While the tale may seem gloomy, truly it is a story of the resiliency of the human spirit and the ability to o
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.
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.
Sep 21, 2011 marked it as to-read
Shelves: mg-fiction
Recommended MG on
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: overdrive-audio
I love Meggy! She's feisty in spite of all her difficulties, and she has a deeply ingrained morality. As a Middle Grade read, this works well to show how just a few simple acts of kindness help a person grow from someone who expects to be bullied and hated into a loving, caring human. The ending wraps neatly (again, it is Middle Grade, so it could have been much darker if for an older audience).

I could smell the streets--the offal, the fires, the people. I laughed. I cried.

And I must mention th
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
if you love a sharp-tongued, tough and smart lass with a heart of gold, AND historically accurate stories that help you feel as though you are knee-deep in the squalor of elizabethan england, well look no further than karen cushman for satisfaction and beyond. i have loved her since i was but a wee lass myself, running around shouting 'god's bones!' in an attempt to teach new/old curse words to the children of inglewood, california after i read and re-read 'catherine called birdy' about a thousa ...more
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Good Historical Fiction? 2 7 May 24, 2012 11:31AM  

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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

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