Splendors and Glooms

Splendors and Glooms

4.8 21
by Laura Amy Schlitz
     
 

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WINNER OF A 2013 NEWBERY HONOR!

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,

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Overview

WINNER OF A 2013 NEWBERY HONOR!

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.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review
Schlitz skillfully manages multiple narratives as the story makes its complex way forward, creating scenes of warmth and humor along with those of drama and horror. Filled with lush language and delightful sensory details…this marvelous story will keep readers absorbed throughout. While the intricate storytelling, captivating characters and evocative setting owe a great deal to Dickens, the book also feels very much in the tradition of such grand 20th-century writers as Joan Aiken and Elizabeth Goudge. Filled with heart-pounding and heart-rending moments, this delicious, glorious novel is the work of a master of children's literature.
—Monica Edinger
Publishers Weekly
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. (Aug.)
VOYA - Rayanne Patterson
In Splendors and Glooms, three children fall into a world of dark magic and close-kept secrets. They all soon learn that to survive they must depend on each other. Schultz creates an intriguing plot that keeps readers craving to know more as unexpected events take place over and over again. Throughout the story, in a world not very different from our own, readers begin to wonder who is pulling the strings in life. 4Q, 3P. Reviewer: Rayanne Patterson, Teen Reviewer
VOYA - Donna Miller
Newbery Medal winner Schlitz has written yet another exquisitely crafted tale with Splendors and Glooms. A viciously vengeful witch, a devious puppeteer, two orphans, and an unwitting young heiress become entwined in a complex tale of greed, evil-versus-innocence, and hope in this Victorian, gothic tale of suspense. Orphans Lizzie Rose and Parsefall have been, both literally and figuratively, taken in by master puppeteer, Gaspare Grisini. Though Grisini appears, at first, to be somewhat kind to his two charges, his scheme to use the children for his own greedy purpose slowly becomes apparent. The kidnapping of wealthy heiress, Clara Wintermute, provides yet another victim for Grisini to use in his plot to retrieve the all-consuming phoenix stone from witch Cassandra. Despite seemingly insurmountable odds, the children prevail, Grisini receives his due, and the witch, Cassandra, finally can rest in peace after she finds some goodness at her core. The ending is a bit neat and tidy, yet fulfilling, after the immense struggles the three young characters have faced. Although the Victorian England setting may be off-putting to some readers, with prodding, they will appreciate Schlitz's edge-of-your-seat thriller. Reviewer: Donna Miller
Children's Literature - Joella Peterson
Clara Wintermute is now an only child who is very lonely and unhappy. Lizzie Rose and Parsefall are apprentices to an egotistical puppeteer named Grisini. When Clara invites the puppeteer to perform at her birthday party she has no idea what is in store for her. Soon Clara is missing and Lizzie Rose and Parsefall are sure that their missing master Grisini has something to do with it. The alternating points of view along with the threads of various storylines have this mystery strung up like one of Grisini's marionettes that dances before the reader. Even though there are other characters who share their point of view throughout the story, the real meat comes as the three very different children try to come together and figure out just what happened and just what can be done about it. Schlitz creates a tale full of magic and suspense that is as thick as the London fog that covers Grisini's mystery. Reviewer: Joella Peterson
Kirkus Reviews
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)
From the Publisher
Newbery Medalist Schlitz 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.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

A brooding Dickensian novel with a touch of fantasy and a glimmer of hope. . . 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.
—Booklist (starred review)

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...Schlitz’s prose is perfect in every stitch, and readers will savor each word.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

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. . . .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.
—School Library Journal (starred review)

Few books can be called both delightful and eerie - this novel is one. Utterly transporting.
—Rebecca Stead, Newbery Medal Winner

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.
—Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked and What the Dickens: The Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy

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.
—Adam Gidwitz, author of A Tale Dark and Grimm

A wonderfully twisty, creepy melodrama with three heroes to love, two villains to hate, and then at the end — but I won't tell, except to say it's totally satisfying.
—Nancy Werlin, National Book Award finalist and Edgar Award winner

The book builds slowly and ends stunningly.
—Chicago Tribune

[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."
—Wall Street Journal

This thrilling Dickensian novel weaves a tale of sorcery and magic that will mesmerize with its intricate plot and wicked but endearing characters.
—Instructor

As the author unravels the mystery, she explores the many levels on which the characters themselves serve as puppets. Schlitz proves herself a master storyteller as she skillfully maneuvers the strings of this gothic tale right up to the astonishing climax.
—Shelf Awareness for Readers

Middle-schoolers not quite ready for Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus can revel in this lusciously atmospheric title of rival magicians and the children caught in their crossfire.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review)

Besides the rich language, setting and plot, SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS features an utterly delicious story that weaves its spell through the fortunes of innocent and not-so-innocent children, the cadaverous puppet master, a dying witch eager for revenge and dramatic action in a castle tower that will have readers as entranced as Grisini’s audiences.
—BookPage

t is exceedingly rare to find an author who hits it out of the park, so to speak, every single time she writes. Ms. Schlitz has written six published works for children and not one has been anything but remarkable. As adept at fairy stories as fairytales, at straight biographies or melodramatic ghost stories, at long last we see what she can do with a Dickensian setting. Result: She does wonders. Wonders and splendors with just a hint of gloom. The sole downside is sitting and waiting for her next book. If it’s half as good as this one, it’ll be worth the wait.
—Fuse #8 Production (SLJ blog)

School Library Journal
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

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780763653804
Publisher:
Candlewick Press
Publication date:
08/28/2012
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
860,802
Product dimensions:
8.70(w) x 6.40(h) x 1.30(d)
Lexile:
670L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Laura Amy Schlitz is the author of the Newbery Medal–winning Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, illustrated by Robert Byrd; A Drowned Maiden’s Hair: A Melodrama; The Night Fairy, illustrated by Angela Barrett; and other books for children. She lives in Maryland.

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