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 orphaned assistants.
Lizzie Rose and Parsefall are dazzled by the Wintermute home. Clara seems to have everything they lack - adoring parents, warmth, and plenty to eat. In fact, Clara's life is shadowed by grief, guilt, and secrets. When Clara vanishes that night, suspicion of kidnapping falls upon the puppeteer and, by association, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall.
As they seek to puzzle out Clara's whereabouts, Lizzie and Parse uncover Grisini's criminal past and wake up to his evil intentions. Fleeing London, they find themselves caught in a trap set by Grisini's ancient rival, a witch with a deadly inheritance to shed before its too late.
Newbery Medal winner Laura Amy Schlitz's Victorian gothic is a rich banquet of dark comedy, scorching magic, and the brilliant and bewitching storytelling that is her trademark.
At 384 pages, Splendors and Glooms is a meaty-sized book with short chapters making the journey more than comfortable. Splendors and Glooms is a magical adventure for readers and listeners alike to enjoy. (Reviewed by BJ Nathan Hegedus).
Wall Street Journal
A] superb gothic novel…Vivid and strange, this latest work by Ms. Schlitz—a Newbery Medal-winner—is, like a marionette show that the orphans see one night, a spectacle "sharp-edged, exquisite, and eerily alive.
The book builds slowly and ends stunningly.
Starred Review. A highly original tale about children caught in a harrowing world of magic and misdeeds. Ages 9–13.
Starred Review. Vividly portrayed and complex, the characters are well defined individuals whose separate strands of story are colorful and compelling. Schlitz weaves them into an intricate tapestry that is as mysterious and timeless as a fairy tale.
Starred Review. Schlitz's prose is perfect in every stitch, and readers will savor each word. Ages 9-13.
School Library Journal
Te plot is rich with supernatural and incredibly suspenseful elements. Fans of mystery, magic, and historical fiction will all relish this novel.
Rebecca Stead, Newbery Medal Winner
Few books can be called both delightful and eerie - this novel is one. Utterly transporting.
Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked and What the Dickens: The Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy
Settle down; prepare for mesmerism: Laura Amy Schlitz is behind the curtain, ready to show us a story that has real magic lacing through it.
Adam Gidwitz, author of A Tale Dark and Grimm
"Thrilling and masterful. The characters are real humans, trapped upon the page as if by magic. The plotting is relentless ... and then resolves into a perfect crystal. The book is beautiful. You will bark with laughter and you will cry. I did.
In the early nineteenth century in England, parish churches and towns provided relief for the poor, but as the cost of looking after the poor kept rising and the method became increasingly disorganized, the upper classes and growing middle class who carried the burden of this expense by paying increasingly higher property taxes, sought a central alternative solution.
Parliament passed the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, which was meant to reduce this cost. The new law stated that in order to receive aid one needed to surrender everything (one's home, processions and most important, one's personal freedom) and move into the local parish workhouse. In return, one would be fed, clothed and given medical care. If this was not agreeable, and one was not willing to leave one's home, no matter how destitute things became there would be no help given.
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Two orphans on the run from their cruel aunt and uncle decide to hide out in Venice, where they meet the "Thief Lord"; but he has secrets of his own, and soon the boys are thrust into circumstances that will lead them, and readers, to a fantastic, spellbinding conclusion. Reading age 9+.
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