Cover art © Bagram Ibatoulline.
Meggy Swann has had a difficult childhood in a rural village in 14th century England. She was born with crippled legs that make walking difficult for her, even with her walking sticks. Her grandmother took care of her for some years, but has died, and Meggy’s mother doesn’t seem to want her around. Everything changes when Meggy is summoned to London by her father, Master Ambrose, who she has never met and knows nothing about. When Meggy arrives at the dusty and unkempt alchemist’s shop and home, her father seems taken aback by her handicap, and doesn’t want her either. Only Meggy’s pet goose remains a friend and solace, but she is determined to stay on and try to help her father with his work and home, even though he shows no gratitude, barely gives her enough money to feed them, and can’t even remember her name. Gradually Meggy begins to make new friends in London, and through the errands her father sends her on, learns to make her way through the city and its melting pot of people. When Meggy overhears talk by clients of her father that they want him to provide poison for the assassination of a powerful government official, she is torn as never before. Should she try to stop the plot, possibly putting her father in prison?
Karen Cushman writes with great knowledge and perception about Elizabethan England, and has won the Newbery Medal for one of her books. This one is equally good. Recommended.