I, Coriander

I, Coriander

3.9 22
by Sally Gardner

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In this exceptionally well-crafted tale, Coriander tells the story of her childhood in seventeenth-century London—and of her discovery that she has inherited magical powers from her mother, who was a fairy princess. But her mother’s sudden death brings on a dark time for Coriander. And after mourning her beloved mother and dealing with the disappearance

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In this exceptionally well-crafted tale, Coriander tells the story of her childhood in seventeenth-century London—and of her discovery that she has inherited magical powers from her mother, who was a fairy princess. But her mother’s sudden death brings on a dark time for Coriander. And after mourning her beloved mother and dealing with the disappearance of her father and the wrath of her evil stepmother, Coriander finds herself locked in a chest with no hope of escape and no will to survive. But when a bright light beckons to her, it is then that Coriander’s journey truly begins. Beautifully written, this magical and luminous story is destined to become a children’s classic.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In our Best Books citation, PW wrote, "A first-time British novelist coats England's turbulent Commonwealth era with a layer of magic, in this stunning story narrated by Coriander Hobie." Ages 10-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Gardner's first novel follows a young girl's journey in mid-seventeenth century London. Part historical fiction and part fantasy, Coriander is the daughter of a wealthy merchant and a fairy mother. At the onset, she is an innocent child, yet trouble arises when a pair of magical silver shoes embroidered with her initial appears. She must strive to define herself as her country does the same. Readers travel through time as Gardner cleverly weaves historical events, such as Oliver Cromwell's Puritan England and references to the former London Bridge, with that of her mother's magical world. Coriander travels between the two worlds searching for a lost treasure, striving to free an enslaved prince, and seeking to destroy an evil witch. Then she must do the hardest thing of all—decide where she belongs. Told in seven parts, Coriander's journey combines mystery with the elements of a classical fairy tale. Gardner's smooth technique draws readers into this realistic plot where she unites fantasy like that of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter (replacing wizards with fairies) with the Puritans reminiscent of Ann Rinaldi's A Break With Charity. The result is a page turner unlike any other. 2005, Dial Books/Penguin, Ages 9 to 12.
—Elizabeth Sulock
Coriander at the beginning of the novel is a grown woman, living in the house in London in which she was raised and telling her story one evening by candlelight. Her story is one of a happy childhood, insatiable curiosity and brave independence. It is also a fairy tale. Coriander is the daughter of a London merchant and his wife who encourage her creativity and imagination. But these are the days following the death of Charles I and the rise of the Puritan Cromwell, and such things are not appreciated. Coriander's mother dies suddenly and her father is forced into a remarriage to keep suspicions of witchcraft from destroying him and his daughter. The woman he marries is a con artist keeping company with an unscrupulous Puritan preacher. Coriander's father is sent into exile and her stepmother sells off the household to maintain her lifestyle. Coriander is locked in her mother's trunk, but instead of suffocating, she is transported to another realm, the home of her mother. There she finds out how her mother had given up her fairy shadow for a life as a mortal woman and the love of her mortal husband. In a seeming miracle, Coriander emerges from the trunk, years older, and now with a mission to find her mother's fairy shadow before the witch does. Although some of the coincidences are hard to believe, even by fairy standards, Coriander's tale is one of good triumphing over evil and of true love saving the lives of honest people. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2005, Penguin, Dial Books, 272p., Ages 12 to 15.
—Janis Flint-Ferguson
School Library Journal
Gr 6-8-Known for her picture and chapter books, I, Coriander (Dial, 2005) is Sally Gardner's first venture into YA fiction. Written in the first person, Coriander Hobie describes both the ordinary and extraordinary events that occur in her life in 17th-century London. The unexplained appearance of a beautiful pair of silver shoes that fit Coriander perfectly set into motion an inexorable chain of events. Traveling via her silver shoes between the puritanical time of Oliver Cromwell and her mother's mystical fairy kingdom, Coriander's voice is strong and true. The juxtaposition of Puritan and fairy, fear and fantasy, make this detailed tale come to life. A strong sense of setting pervades the novel; London Bridge and the Thames River are lovingly described, as is the Summer Palace of the fairy king. Truly a book meant to be read aloud, British stage actress Juliet Stevenson does the story justice with her wonderful sense of timing and cadence, easily differentiating between the characters with different inflections and tones. An interview with the author rounds out this audiobook that's sure to be a hit with fantasy as well as historical fiction lovers.-Charli Osborne, Oxford Public Library, MI Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Coriander is nine when her story begins (15 when it closes), living by London Bridge on the Thames during Cromwell's time. She writes by the light of seven candles, one for each section, and in her gentle voice tells of the sudden death of her mother, whose silver shadow is kept in a box, and her father's quick remarriage to a piggy Puritan named Maud, as vicious to Coriander as she is to her own daughter, Hester. Coriander's father vanishes, sought by the Roundheads, and Maud and a crooked man stuff Coriander into the box where her mother's shadow was kept. In the silver world she falls into, Coriander finds that three years pass, and she glimpses the power of that shadow and the sight of her own true love. She returns, however, to find her father, restore her house, see the Restoration of Charles II and her love from the silvered land. Deft and dulcet language, a cast of supporters not the least of whom is Coriander's loving stepsister Hester, and the tie to a grim historical season will hold readers fast. (historical background) (Historical fiction/fantasy. 10-14)

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Product Details

Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.82(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.06(d)
860L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

A Tale to Tell

It is night, and our old house by the river is finally quiet. The baby has stopped its crying and been soothed back to sleep. Only the gentle lapping of the River Thames can be heard outside my window. London is wrapped in a deep sleep, waiting for the watchman to call in the new day.

I have lit the first of seven candles to write my story by. On the table next to me is the silk purse that holds my mother's pearls and beside it is the ebony box whose treasure I am only now beginning to understand. Next to that, shining nearly as bright as the moon, stands a pair of silver shoes.

I have a great many things to tell, of how I came by the silver shoes and more. And this being my story and a fairy tale besides, I will start once upon a time . . . .

My name is Coriander Hobie. I am the only child of Thomas and Eleanor Hobie, being born in this house in the year of Our Lord 1643. It is just a stone's throw from London Bridge, with the river running past the windows at the back. To the front is my mother's once beautiful walled garden that leads through a wooden door out on to the bustling city street. The garden is all overgrown now; it has been neglected for too long. Once it was full of flowers and herbs of all description whose perfume could make even the Thames smell sweet, but now rosemary and nettles, briar roses and brambles have reclaimed it as their own.

It was this garden, the like of which no neighbors had ever seen, that first set tongues wagging. My father had planted it for my mother, and built her a pretty stillroom that backed on to the wall of the counting house. My mother in her quiet way knew more about herbs and their powers than anyone else, and together with her waiting woman, Mary Danes, she would spend hours in the stillroom, making all sorts of potions which were distilled and stored in tiny bottles. When I was small I used to hide under my mother's petticoats and listen to friends and neighbors as they brought their ailments to her like posies of sorrows, to be made better by one of her remedies. Later on, when I was too big to hide, they came to ask her other things, for by this time her reputation as a cunning woman with magical powers had spread as thistledown does, blown on the hot winds of gossip.

My first memories are of the garden and of this, my old bedchamber, whose walls my mother painted with fairy places and imaginary beasts. She wrote under each one in her fair script, and for every picture she had a story, as bright in the telling as the colors in which they were painted. When I was small I used to trace the letters with my finger, to feel how the spidery writing was raised above the wood paneling, and I would say the names to myself like a magic charm to keep harm at bay. All the pictures, like the garden's blooms, are gone now, washed and scrubbed away. Only the faintest trace of the gold letters remains. They still shine through, like the memories.

I used to believe that my mother's life had started with me and that before I made my entrance into this world there was nothing. Nothing, that is, until the midsummer's day when my father, Thomas Hobie, first saw my mother standing under an oak tree on a country lane.

This is the story he told me, and the story I loved the best. When he was a young merchant with a head full of dreams, he put his hard-earned savings, together with what money his father had left him, into a ship bound for Constantinople, banking on her returning with a cargo of silk. Alas, news reached him that she had been lost in a great storm at sea, so that now he owned nothing but the clothes on his back.

In despair, my father walked out of the city and some ten miles into the country, on the chance of being able to borrow money from a distant cousin, a Master Stoop. When he arrived he found that Master Stoop had given up the never-ending struggle with the living and had joined the ranks of the dead, leaving a wife and several small Stoops to be looked after.

My father had not the heart to ask for anything. Having paid his last respects, he set out mournfully on the road to London, resigned to his fate.

It was getting late when he met a strange-looking man with a long beard tied in a knot, holding a lantern as round as the moon. The stranger told him he had been robbed by a highwayman who had taken all he had owned, leaving him just the lantern. My father felt sorry to hear of this misfortune and offered him his cloak to keep the chill off. The stranger accepted it with thanks.

"Young man, to travel with an open and loving heart is worth more than all the gold coins in a treasure chest," he said. "Tomorrow your kindness will be rewarded."

My father wished the fellow well and hoped that nothing more would befall him. Then he set off again, with only the light of the moon to show him the way. As he walked, a wave of tiredness came over him and he lay down to sleep.

Next morning he had not gone far when he thought he might be lost, for in the dawn light everything looked different.

At this point I, having heard the story so many times that I could repeat it to myself word for word, would interrupt and say, "But you were on the right road." He would laugh and reply, "It was the road that would lead me to your mother, so how could it be wrong?"

To my childish way of thinking, it seemed that he met and married my mother in the space of one day. They arrived back in the city after the wedding to be greeted with the astonishing news that his ship had returned safe and sound with a cargo of fine silk.

From that day forward my father's life had been charmed with love and good fortune. No other merchant's ships fared as well. Untouched by pirates, wars, or tempests, his ships sailed unmolested in calm seas, bringing back bounty fit for a king. Before long, my father was wealthy enough to be able to build this house for us by the river, where we lived in great luxury, having a cook and servants to look after us as well as Sam, my father's faithful apprentice.

It was no surprise to me that all this should happen so fast. It never entered my head to ask what my mother's family thought of their daughter marrying a young man who was penniless, or even if she had any family to mind. All these questions and many more besides only occurred to me much, much later when there was no one left to ask.

My father had two miniature paintings done of them both shortly after their wedding. My mother's portrait shows her wearing a cream gown beautifully embroidered and oversewn with tiny glimmering pearls. I imagine that this is how she looked when my father first saw her that midsummer's day under the oak tree. Wild flowers are woven into her hair and in her hand she is holding an oak leaf.

The background of this tiny painting always fascinated me. It is as if you are a bird looking down from a great height, seeing the land mapped out below. There, in a forest of oak trees, is a clearing in which there is a grand house with formal gardens. In the distance a tower stands tall over the trees, and I could just make out a figure at the top of the tower watching over the landscape, searching for something or someone. On the edge of the forest is a hunting party with dogs. Compared to the house and the tower, they look oddly large. A hawk sits on the outstretched arm of one of the riders. Another rider is standing up in his saddle blowing a horn. I looked at this painting many times before I spotted the white horse and the fox hidden in a thicket. For some reason that I cannot explain, their discovery worried me greatly. It gave me an uneasy feeling, as if somehow nothing was safe.

My father's portrait shows him looking young and handsome. He is clean-shaven, wearing breeches and a linen shirt embroidered in the same pattern as my mother's dress. The scene behind him could not be more different. It is a view of a city with the river running through it like an opal green ribbon. You could be forgiven for thinking it a picture of London, except that the houses are brightly painted and mermaids and sea monsters can be seen in the water amongst a fleet of tall ships with full-blown golden sails.

Even then, these two miniatures looked to me strangely out of time, as if they had been painted long, long ago in another world entirely. I know now what they mean. I know why my mother kept silent and why, at my darkest moment, her past claimed me, leading me back to something that could no longer be denied.

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Meet the Author

Sally Gardner's first career was as a theater designer, but when she had children she decided to try something new. "Books are just like the theater," she says. "I suppose they really are the best form of theater. The real magic of the book lies after the adults have gone and it is just the child and the book." She has written and illustrated a number of picture books and early chapter books, often about fairies and other magical subjects.

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I, Coriander 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
E_KatherineEA More than 1 year ago
I read this book  a long while ago, maybe seven years back, when I was handed off an advanced reading copy and I've never been able to get it out of my head. It was spectacular and just the right mix of dark and fantastic to really capture the imagination. I wonder if it would hold up now that I'm in college.  Either way, I think it's worth a second read and I'll definitely get my hands on a paperback this summer.
book4children More than 1 year ago
Magical, beautiful, and lyrical. I, Coriander was well written and fantastically told. This is a fairytale with complex characters and intricate plot lines. While it may not be completely historically accurate, it is a fun glimpse into the past as you follow Coriander through her childhood, and her many discoveries about her mother and herself. Coriander is an intelligent, whimsical girl that is full of love and goodness. She loves her father and the many friends that help her throughout the story. The book was unique and interesting in so many ways. I especially loved the seven candles which she used to write her story by. The alligator added an interesting element, as did her mother's shadow, and the event of being locked in the chest and finding herself in fairyland. Large chunks of Coriander's life are skipped because our world and the fairyland world run on different clocks. Every time Coriander goes to fairyland, a few years would pass in our world. The characters of Master Thankless, Danes, Hester, and Gabriel are all beautiful in their own way. I love their selflessness and inner goodness. They truly care for Coriander and each other and go through great lengths to help one another out. There are several bad guys in this book, including the ever wicked stepmother named Maud and her preacher friend, Arise Fell. These two are particularly disturbing and terrifying. Maud is horrid to the core, and Arise is a deranged old man with a twisted perception about God. Rosmore, the evil fairy queen, is not as complex as Maud or Arise, but adds that magical quality to the story and provides a motive behind the entire plot. Feminism is a topic that is brought up a few times. Gardner mentions how people in the 1650s thought that it was a waste for a girl to learn to read or speak another language because women have feeble minds. Coriander also talks about the freedom that comes from wearing breeches instead of an apron which ties a woman to house and home. The recommended age is 9-12 years, but I would lean more to the older side of that age group. There are large portions of the book that are pretty dark. There is abuse, death, and even murder that happen. The writing style is also a little advanced for younger children. They might have a difficult time understanding the characters, the situations, and the different worlds. I gave this book four and a half stars. It was a beautiful fairytale that you could read several times over. The only thing that I did not like about it was that the ending of the book was too perfect. Every character's story was wrapped up and tied with a neat little bow
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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pinkfairytale More than 1 year ago
I love fairytales. I saw this book at the library and LOVED the cover art so I took it home and read it. Recently I reread it and I am not sure what to make of it. It is almost as if I should read it over agian just to make sure that I didn't miss out on everything. This story was not what I expected. I thought it was well writen and very complex at the same time. The story is a bit hard to understand because of the 2 realm thing going on. I thought that a huge part of the story was missing - it was almost as if the character didn't know about what was going on and didn't really care...? I mean she is sent into another world at one point and she doesn't really question how she got there or who the people she meets are etc... I thought a few things were out of place as well ( I don't want to give anything away though). The middle of the story was rather depressing to me. The love affairs were rather strange and well...sudden. Overall I thought this story could have been much better but I am still going to give it three stars for an interesting plot, setting (settings), and memorable characters. I would suggest checking it out at the library and then buying it if you really like it. - there were questionable things throughout this book. Parents might want to check it out a bit further. The D word was used twice I believe, and there were a couple of other problems that might bother some readers or parents....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Too_Busy_Reading_To_Write More than 1 year ago
This book was readable, and the premise was interesting, but the "fairy tale" part of the story was not believable. There was a lack of investment in the fairy realm by the author that left too many holes and unanswered questions. Coriander's voice doesn't change despite the span in years, and when we reach the resolution, I felt like I could care less--the end feels more like an epilogue.?? I think there are many other books of this genre of better quality. It might interest a young reader, but won't hold up to the test of time. Cool dust jacket, though.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonemous1 More than 1 year ago
The main character Coriander has gone through enough with her mother dying, father remarrying, and now her name is changed, but now she finds out her mothers past. This is an intriging book with much description. The sad parts can become very distressing for people who cannot take it. I, who do not like fantasy, did like this fantasy filled tale. It may seem to long for some, but after reading for a while you become so into it that you just keep reading. You don't realize that it is very long.
Adrianne More than 1 year ago
My family and I just loved this book. It was exciting from start to finish. It is a great book for those who feel they dont always fit in with everyone else.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I really wanted to like this book. But i'm sorry to say i didn't. It wasn't well written. I felt like it was a waste of money. I didn't connect with the main character, Coriander. she didn't feel real and was kind of annoying. If anything, this is for 10 year olds and down. I was very disappointed with this book. Only read it if you need help falling asleep.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was ok, but not great. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who wants a book full of adventure, fantasy, and romance. It has a promising plot and a pretty good beginning. But after a while, it just seems dull. It's not very well written and has a weak romance. It doesn't keep you interested and you won't feel like you are in what's happening. The writing seemed a little off as well. I was borderline kid-teen-trying to be mature. Some of it was just plain weird. The romance was written very poorly with no thought. It seemed like it just stuck into there. Overall, it was ok.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I Absolutely loved this book. Who wouldn't want to read a modern Cinderella Story with a Touch of Magic and True love.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book tried to hard to be like a Harry Potter magic, action book. Personally, I found to extremly boring so when ever a big even took place I had no idea what was going on because I didn't follow the sequence of events. The book did start out very good but it just went down hill from there.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was captivating from the very first page! Gardner weaves darkness with light in a story that mixes two worlds into a compelling page turner! Makes my top 10 reads!
Guest More than 1 year ago
i'm one of those people that reads all the time, esp fantasy. i will admit i had a hard time putting this one down, & it was ok, but it was kinda weird. the ending was very abrupt, and the romance wasn't very well developed. recommended if you are bored. not recommeded if you want a satisfying read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My friend Jamie recomended me this book and at first I didn't think that I would like it. After I started reading it I fell in love with it and I couldn't put the book down. I, Coriander is a very good book because it keeps you turning the pages to see when she will go into the other world or what will happen next with her step-mother and if her father will ever come back from hiding. I, Coriander is one of my favorite books for this reason. I never really enjoyed fantasy books until now. I, Coriander is a great book full of some suspense, fantasy, love, and family. It talks about how important these things are in a persons life. In the book Coriander is faces with many chalenges and tries to make good descisions. In conclusion this is a fantastic book for middle schoolers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I Luv Fantasy books! I also Luv romance(just not to smutty:) )This was a perfect mix. I just read it again for like the 12th time. I highly recomend this book. Can I just say sequal please!
Guest More than 1 year ago
im an avid reader who enjoys many fantasy books therfore im picky.. however I Coriander was cleverly written with a few unexpected twists deffiantly worth reading