Alchemy and Meggy Swann by Karen Cushman (Published by Clarion Books, April 26, 2010)
Born crippled, Meggy Swan was raised in a small English village by her loving grandmother. Her mother was unkind and wanted nothing to do with her, and the villagers were suspicious of people with disabilities. When her grandmother dies in 1573, Meggy’s mother, eager to be rid of her, sends her to London to live with her father, whom Meggy has never met before.
From the time she arrives in London, Meggy hates it and wishes she could return to her country village. The city is dirty and scary and confusing, and it is especially hard for her to travel around because of her disability. Her father, an alchemist, had thought his child was a son, and is disappointed by the arrival of a daughter, and a crippled one at that. Meggy feels lost, alone, and friendless. Her father is obsessed with his work of turning liquid into gold and wants little to do with his unwanted daughter. But soon Meggy learns that the city isn’t an entirely terrible place, and even a crippled country girl like herself can make friends.
Alchemy and Meggy Swan is another enjoyable middle grade historical novel by Karen Cushman. Unlike her previous books, which were set in the Medieval era, this book is set in Elizabethan London, and she brings the place and time to life with gritty and realistic detail. Meggy is a bit unlikable at first - she is a stubborn and unfriendly loner, as a result of a childhood in which she was despised by everyone except her grandmother. But it is enjoyable to see her grow from a friendless loner into a girl with many friends and a chance for a wonderful future. I recommend this book to readers who enjoyed previous books by the author or who like middle grade historical fiction.
Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher.