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Splendors and Glooms
Cover of Splendors and Glooms
Splendors and Glooms
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Newbery Medalist Laura Amy Schlitz brings her sorcery to a Victorian gothic thriller—an enthralling, darkly comic tale that would do Dickens proud. The master puppeteer, Gaspare Grisini, is so expert...
Newbery Medalist Laura Amy Schlitz brings her sorcery to a Victorian gothic thriller—an enthralling, darkly comic tale that would do Dickens proud. The master puppeteer, Gaspare Grisini, is so expert...
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  • Newbery Medalist Laura Amy Schlitz brings her sorcery to a Victorian gothic thriller—an enthralling, darkly comic tale that would do Dickens proud. 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 it's 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.

 

Awards-

About the Author-

  • Laura Amy Schlitz is the author of the Newbery Medal–winning Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, the Newbery Honor book and New York Times bestseller Splendors & Glooms, and several other books for young readers. A teacher as well as a writer, Laura Amy Schlitz lives in Maryland.

    Laura Amy Schlitz says that as a child, she was very lucky. "My parents gave me plenty of time to play and dream. Often, I pretended to be someone else; a ballerina, a horse, a mermaid, a spy. My brother and I ruled over a kingdom of stuffed animals—I was 'The Great Laurie', and the national anthem was the 'Grand March' from Aida." She adored fairies and fairy tales. "I gathered bread crusts and hid them under the dining-room table—people in fairy tales were often described as 'not having a crust to eat,' and I was determined to save my family from this fate." She also taught herself to sleep in the flying-leap pose, favored by Peter Pan on the cover of her fairy tale book so that if Peter dropped by when she was asleep, he would know, from her body position, that she was willing to join him in Neverland. "He has yet to turn up, but I still sleep in that position, though I wake with a stiff back."

    Laura Amy has made her living as a librarian, although she took a couple of years off to tour with a children's theater: "It was a gloriously free and disorganized life, but eventually, I had no money at all." She still loves the theater, and wrote her first stage play for a friend who needed a last-minute script for Beauty and the Beast. It turned out better than anyone expected, and Laura Amy Schlitz became a playwright whose plays have been produced in professional theaters all over the country. She loves to make things: bread, marionettes, quilts, watercolors, origami animals. She says, "My hands get restless if I can't make things." For the past thirteen years, she has worked as a school librarian, about which she says, "I am so grateful that I work with children—they make me laugh, and their energy reminds me to enjoy life."

    About her writing, she notes, "I do a lot of complaining. People often ask why I write, when I hate it so much. I answer that I write because I am under a curse. I keep meaning to give up writing, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. I dread sitting down to write, and I have to resort to tricks to get myself to the paper. 'One half hour, or one page,' I promise myself, 'then you can get up and do something you like.' I go to the bathroom, take the telephone off the hook, fill my fountain pen, get myself a glass of water, and sit down. Once I sit, my rear end has to stay in place until I've written. I often say that I write with my rear end—it's the ballast that holds me steady while I fight for words."

Reviews-

  • DOGO Books thumsup - I can say it as seriously and intricately as the plot of this book- I love it. It's so enchanting and beautiful, with some British dialect and spells and labyrinths and puppets. If you get a chance, you should read it. *And I JUST finished it, so you can take word from someone who has been reading for an hour- and- a- half nonstop.
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from July 2, 2012
    Anyone who thinks marionettes are creepy will have that opinion reinforced by this dark tale about three children at the mercy of an unscrupulous puppeteer and the witch who pulls his strings. Clara Wintermute asks her father, a wealthy doctor in 1860 London, to hire Professor Grisini and his Venetian Fantoccini to entertain guests at her 12th birthday party. Clara is stagestruck by the puppets and taken with one of Grisini’s two assistants, the pretty, well-mannered orphan Lizzie Rose (the other assistant, Parsefall, is an urchin straight out of a Dickensian workhouse). After the puppet show, Clara disappears. Grisini is suspected, but he, too, vanishes. The fate of the three children becomes intertwined with Grisini’s old flame, the witch Cassandra Sagredo. It’s a fairly complicated plot, and although the pacing occasionally lags, Newbery Medalist Schlitz (Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!) delivers many pleasures—fully dimensional children, period details so ripe one can nearly smell them, and droll humor that leavens a few scenes of true horror. A highly original tale about children caught in a harrowing world of magic and misdeeds. Ages 9–13. Agent: Stephen Barbara, Foundry Literary + Media.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from June 15, 2012
    Two orphans, a witch and a girl who laughs at death: Each shares the lens of protagonist in Newbery winner Schlitz's fully satisfying gothic novel. Parsefall and Lizzie Rose assist a wicked puppeteer, Grisini, with his London street shows in exchange for board and crumbs in a Dickensian boardinghouse complete with quirky landlady and ill-behaved dogs. Clara Wintermute is a privileged girl living in the shadow of her siblings, who all died from eating diseased watercress (picky Clara made her twin eat hers). Clara demands the puppet show for her birthday, and shortly after the ominous performance, she becomes trapped in some form she can't fathom. Grisini is suspected, and the orphans are drawn into a dangerous ploy orchestrated by a dying witch who needs a child to steal something precious from her. Each character is a little horrible: Parsefall is a selfish thief, but this neediness gives him a keen empathy and daring. Lizzie Rose is bossy, but her yearning for her lost family keeps them together. Clara is egotistical, but her steely will saves them all. The witch is more horrible than good, but she is a little bit good, like the chocolate in the box that only grown-ups like. The shifting perspective among these characters and cumulative narrative development (echoing Dickens' serials) create a pleasingly unsettling tension. Schlitz's prose is perfect in every stitch, and readers will savor each word. (Historical fantasy. 9-13)

    COPYRIGHT(2012) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from August 1, 2012

    Gr 4-8-Victorian London could be a magical place: horse-drawn carriages, puppet shows, elaborate upper-class houses. Of course it could also be miserable: fog, filthy streets, shabby hovels where too many people live in too few rooms. Schlitz conjures both the magic and the mundane here. For Clara's 12th birthday, her parents hire a street performer to give a puppet show in their home. The puppeteer, Grisini, is so talented that he appears to be magical. His two orphaned assistants, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall, are envious of Clara's home and all its comforts. Clara vanishes the night of the puppet show, and Grisini and his assistants are the prime suspects. Then Grisini disappears, and Lizzie Rose and Parsefall must seek out the missing girl, with the sinister and mysterious help of a wealthy old witch. Schlitz uses such evocative language that readers will practically smell dirty London and then be relieved by the crisp, cold air in the countryside around the witch's crumbling mansion. The characters are recognizable tropes: the witch is rotting from the inside out; the orphans may be dirty and ill-bred, but they have spirit and pluck; the little rich girl is actually sad and lonely; the skinny puppeteer and the overly dramatic landlady are recognizably Dickensian. Yet, they are so well drawn that they are never caricatures, but people whom readers will cheer for, be terrified of, or grow to like. The plot is rich with supernatural and incredibly suspenseful elements. Fans of mystery, magic, and historical fiction will all relish this novel.-Geri Diorio, Ridgefield Library, CT

    Copyright 2012 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from June 1, 2012
    Grades 4-8 *Starred Review* A brooding, Dickensian novel with a touch of fantasy and a glimmer of hope, Schlitz's latest opens in London in 1860, when lonely Clara, the only remaining child in a doctor's grief-stricken household, attempts to celebrate her twelfth birthday. Grisini the puppet master is engaged to perform, along with the two orphaned children, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall, who serve as his assistants. Clara bridges the class divide to befriend the children. After kidnapping Clara for ransom, cruel Grisini disappears, leaving Lizzie Rose and Parsefall struggling to survive on their own. They make their way to the country house of a bewitched woman whose magical amulet gives her amazing powers while draining away her humanity. There they learn certain grisly secrets involving their cruel master, Clara's fate, and the wealthy witch, who seeks to control them all. The magic of the storytelling here lies in the subtle depiction of menacing evil. After working its way insidiously through the characters' lives, it is defeated by the children, who grow in strength and understanding throughout the novel. 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. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Schlitz's Newbery Medal winner, Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village (2007) earned her a wide following, and librarians will be eager to see what she's up to next.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2012, American Library Association.)

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