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At the Sign of the Star

At the Sign of the Star

4.0 5
by Katherine Sturtevant

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The tale of a bookseller's daughter

Meg Moore is the motherless and only child of a bookseller with a thriving business in Restoration London-and that makes her an heiress. She knows that someday she will have her pick of suitors, and that with the right husband she can continue in the book trade and be friends with wits and authors, as her father is. But Mr.


The tale of a bookseller's daughter

Meg Moore is the motherless and only child of a bookseller with a thriving business in Restoration London-and that makes her an heiress. She knows that someday she will have her pick of suitors, and that with the right husband she can continue in the book trade and be friends with wits and authors, as her father is. But Mr. Moore's unexpected marriage throws all Meg's dreams into confusion. Meg resists the overtures and edicts of her stepmother with a cleverness equaled only by her fierceness, but in spite of it all her rival's belly soon swells with what Meg fears will be her father's new heir. Meg seeks wisdom from almanacs and astrologers, plays and books of jests, guides for ladies and guides for midwives. Yet it is through her own experience that she finds a new matrimony with which to face her unknown future. This vibrant novel recreates a lively and fascinating historical period when women claimed a new and more active role in London's literary scene.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Good historical fiction with a strong female heroine.” —School Library Journal

“Working in her widowed father's London bookshop in 1677, twelve-year-old Meg loves being on the fringe of the literary world and talking with her father and their customers about books. In addition, she feels secure knowing that the business she will inherit will give her the financial freedom to marry a man of her choosing. So when her father remarries, Meg finds the adjustment difficult...Readers will end the book hoping for a sequel to this engaging story, which is set in a period little visited in historical novels for young people.” —Starred, Booklist

“While Sturtevant's portrayal of the struggles of a blended family could be true today, her depiction of women's attitudes and opportunities in the Restoration period is carefully historical.” —The Horn Book

“A wonderful combination of history, humor, and storytelling.” —Karen Cushman, author of The Midwife's Apprentice

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Though her mother died four years ago, the heroine of this novel set in 1677 London feels fortunate indeed: her father is a bookseller and publisher, and she is his only heir. Thanks to her anticipated dowry, she will have an unusual degree of freedom: "I would not live my life like other women, bound to dreary husbands and household duties." With her love of books and her admiration of Restoration London's great wits, the hours Meg spends working in her father's shop bring great pleasure. But all this changes when Meg's father takes a new wife: not only is Meg's inheritance jeopardized by the possible birth of a half brother, she must also study the womanly arts she scorns at the side of her stepmother, Susannah. Refreshingly, Meg's struggle to come to terms with her altered situation never degenerates into a battle of one-dimensional tomboyish virtue against uncomprehending femininity. Though readers never lose sight of Meg's predicament, Susannah is gradually and convincingly revealed to be as sympathetic and as hardheaded as her stepdaughter. Avoiding simplistic devices, resolution is achieved through perseverance and genuine emotional growth. Admirers of historical fiction will relish Sturtevant's (A Mistress Moderately Fair, for adults) detailed depiction of life in the great city, including a trip to Vauxhall, a visit to the theater (where Aphra Behn's work is performed) and the simple errands that take Meg through the smoky, noisy and beguiling streets. Ages 10-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
In this historical fiction, the protagonist, 12yearold Meg, lives with her father in London in 1677. Her mother had died in childbirth 4 years before. Since then, Meg has struggled as an only child in a strict Victorian household, with only her maidservant as a companion and friend. Yet, quickly, we sense the spirit that drives her to take full advantage of the treasures she discovers in her father's bookstore. There she reads books written by established authors, as well as new and unconventional beginning writers. Meg revels in the exposure to this environment. While this is a work of fiction, the author incorporates poets and playwrights who actually existed into the story. She educates readers about the roles of women through Meg's introduction to the works of Aphra Behn, the first female playwright in England. As Meg struggles with changes in her life, we see her mature and develop into a budding writer herself. Most readers would welcome a sequel to this book. 2000, Douglas and McIntyre, Ages 11 up, $16.00. Reviewer: Kathleen Orosz
London of 1677 is a glorious home for 12-year-old Meg. She doesn't mind the noise or filth, and revels in the bustle. Her father's bookshop, and the manuscripts submitted to him for publication, give Meg a window into the world of playwrights and authors. She loves the intellectualism, and she loves that the shop will one day be hers: inheriting it will allow her full access into the literary world, and will assure her independence where other girls would need to marry. But when Meg's widowed father suddenly marries again, all those plans are destroyed. There will now be other children, heirs who will supersede her. Meg's fury shows itself as she and her stepmother spar over what skills she should learn, and Meg's impatient father offers her a chance to move away to the country. But busy, intellectual London is where she belongs, and Meg must figure out a way to make peace with her situation and family. Readers worried about Meg's future may be disappointed that the resolution is more philosophical than logistical, but the consistent narrative voice, references to real authors and playwrights of the time, and Meg's honest emotions make for an engaging piece of historical fiction. Category: Paperback Fiction. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2000, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 140p., , Simmons College, Boston
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Restoration London in the year 1677 comes alive through the eyes of 12-year-old Meg Moore, the motherless only child of a bookseller whose home and place of business is, as the title conveys, "at the sign of the Star." Meg's father publishes the works of playwright John Dryden, among others, and Meg enjoys being part of the literary world. She expects to one day inherit the business and marry well with such a dowry. However, her expectations are dashed by her father's remarriage to Susannah Beckwith. Meg is cruel and insulting to her stepmother, who quickly becomes pregnant with the heir she fears will steal her future. When Susannah asks the girl to care for her baby in the event that she (like Meg's mother) dies in childbirth, Meg remembers how she had loved a younger brother who died. Though she does lose her inheritance when Tobias is born, she eventually comes to realize that, while the future may be unknown, she has many options. Sturtevant paints a lively picture of the time and place, weaving information on such diverse topics as medical procedures, food, and wedding rituals. Each chapter bears the title of an actual book written during the late 17th century. Readers also learn about Aphra Behn, a successful woman playwright of the time, who becomes a role model for Meg. Good historical fiction with a strong female heroine set in a time and place not often portrayed in books for this audience.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Kirkus Reviews
Although its feminist message is a bit heavy-handed, this novel, set in 1677, is an engaging and fun story about 12-year-old Meg, the only surviving child of London bookseller Miles Moore. Although Meg is motherless, she leads quite a happy life, helping out in the bookstore, reading countless books, and eagerly lapping up the conversation of authors like John Dryden, playwrights like Aphra Behn, London's foremost female dramatist, and the other assorted literati who frequent the store. Since she will inherit all her father's books and copyrights, Meg knows that she will have a good dowry and therefore have more choices than many other young women. "I would not live my life like other women, bound to dreary husbands and household duties. Instead, I would marry into the trade and be a bookseller like my father." But Meg sees all her plans for the future going up in smoke when her father marries Susannah Beckwith. And as though it weren't bad enough that Susannah has stolen her father's attention and affection, she also insists on teaching Meg how to be a proper young lady. To Meg's dismay, that means less time in the store, less time reading, and all too much time on inane pursuits like needlework. Meg deeply resents her stepmother's interference and is hurt by her father's seeming betrayal of his daughter in favor of his new wife. Only when Susannah has a baby and when she also discovers she has a talent for writing does Meg soften towards her stepmother. She realizes that if she wants to ensure that her future will hold something other than a loveless marriage, she has to take a certain amount of control over her own life. Readers will enjoy the period details (booksellerswillespecially savor the tidbits about bookstore life of the late-17th century.) Like Catherine Called Birdy (1994), an involving story of a feisty and rebellious girl who refuses to conform to the accepted and expected roles of females in their societies. Oddly, in a book for kids, the books listed in the afterword are all adult books. (Fiction. 10-14) Sweeney, Joyce PLAYERS Winslow(770 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach, FL 33483) (225 pp.) Oct. 2000

Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.33(d)
860L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 13 Years

Read an Excerpt

We all went to church together, winding our way through the streets, while a fiddler and a drummer led the way. There was much merriment, and it was hard for the guests to grow sober for the ceremony. I sat near to old Mr. Bledsoe, who wanted to tickle me throughout, which I did not want. So I changed places with Hester, who frowned at him until he became sulky. By then the sermon on matrimony was nearly over.

And then came my last chance, for Reverend Little said solemnly: "If any man can show any just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace."

I clasped my gloved hands together tightly and prayed to hear a voice ring out, but there was only giggling and snoring. So Reverend Little spoke on, and asked my father if he would take Susannah Beckwith to be his wife, "forsaking all other," and my father said he would. Then he came to the ring, which my father put on the fourth finger of her left hand, for there is a vein there that runs straight to the heart, they say. And at last he said: "With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow."

Those worldly goods were supposed to be mine.

Then we all went home again. Someone broke a cake over Susannah's head when she went through the door, as is the custom, but I wished it were a brick instead.

Meet the Author

Katherine Sturtevant is also author of A Mistress Moderately Fair, a historical novel for adults, and Our Sister's London: Feminist Walking Tours. She lives in Berkeley, California.

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At the Sign of the Star 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
At the sign of the Star Sturtevant, Katherine. At the sign of the Star. New York: Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data, 2000. Meg is a young woman living with her widow father. Meg helps her father out with the store until he gets remarried. Her new stepmother is making her learn women¿s work and is keeping her away from the book store. Eventually the stepmother, Susannah, gets pregnant and Meg fears she will lose her heritance, and she does lose her inheritance to her new baby brother Toby. Meg is a pleasant young girl who is looking forward to inheriting her father¿s book store. She suspects something fishy going on with her father. Later in the story she finds out that her father is getting married again. She hates her new stepmother because she knows that her, inheritance will be lost by a child produced by Susannah. In one case just after her fathers wedding, Susannah is making her learn the women¿s job in the household. Of course, Meg hates it and would rather be selling books. Meg goes along with, but tortures Susannah to the point where she runs out of the room crying. The part I liked the most is after the dad gets remarried and before the step mom got pregnant. I like this part because there is a lot of tension between Meg and Susannah. This story is full of excitement and a lot of tension. The story has cliff hangers between sections that make the reader not want to put it down. This story also has a great moral to it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is great book whether you like historical fiction or not. When I picked it out for my book report, I wasn't sure if I would like it, but now it's my favorite book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read this book for a report, and I loved it! There were some parts that I didn't understand though.Let me tell you about the summary. Meg has found out that her father is remarrying! She is twelve, her mother has been dead for four years! If she didn't need a mother to take care of her for that long,she probably wouldn't need one in the future! She just wants to help her father in their bookshop,her new mother wants her to learn how to sew and cook! Then, a couple months after her stepmothers marriage with her Mr. Moore,(Meg's father,) Meg finds out something that scares, worries,and startles her. She does not know if she is ready for it. Her stepmother is...
Guest More than 1 year ago
A intriguing peak into 17th century life in Restoration London. Detailed information on customs and mores of daily life including: food, clothing, medicine, role of women, birth, astrology, theater,holiday celebrations, book selling, literature, and religion to name a few areas. Tons of interesting information woven into an interesting tale of 13 year old Meg.