Julie Hearn topples every trope in her deliciously Dickensian novel. Both artists are self-involved and pretentious, and the only prince is, literally, a dog…The childhood scenes can be slow-moving, but overall this is a page-turner infused with Ivy's determination to fashion her own happily-ever-after.
The Washington Post
Capturing her audience with her first sentences, Hearn (Sign of the Raven) paints an almost lush picture of a seamy 19th-century London as she describes two ladies from the "Ragged Children's Welfare Association" who "pick their way along filthy streets, the hems of their crinolines blotting up slush and the beads of their bonnets tinkling like ice." (It's not surprising to learn that Philip Pullman was a mentor.) Among the ladies' intended beneficiaries will be the orphan Ivy, a Pre-Raphaelite beauty-although she spends the bulk of the novel groggy on laudanum, an addiction she picks up very young. Ivy is practically passed around, half asleep, as more of a set piece about which other characters can frolic, scheme and swoon. Fortunately, there's plenty of spunk to go around on Ivy's behalf-from the good-hearted con artist Carroty Kate, who takes the child Ivy in, to the bumbling, aspiring artist Oscar Frosdick, for whom Ivy models, despite the efforts of his conniving mother to keep her away. A fast and absorbing read. Ages 12-up. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
In Victorian England, red-haired Ivy is orphaned as a toddler and is raised by her thieving and predatory aunt and uncle and ruled over by cousins of both genders. Ivy is beautiful, striking to look at. Because of this, she is kidnapped at age five by Carroty Kate and trained as a skinner, a person who lures wealthy children into dark corners, then steals clothes right off their backs. Carroty Kate is aligned with a truly evil man who can't abide small children and threatens, meaningfully, to tie Ivy in a sack and drown her in the Thames if she doesn't stop crying. Carroty Kate gives Ivy laudanum to keep her quiet and before long Ivy has an addiction. Ten years pass, and Ivy is back in the bosom of her real family, still addicted, and now selling flowers. Her beauty enchants an untalented painter who can afford his pastime because he is also wealthy. Unfortunately, he also comes equipped with a murderous and jealous mother. After miraculously surviving several failed murder plots, Ivy finally takes matters into her own hands, overcomes her laudanum addiction, slips out of the painter's control and decides her own destiny. Ivy is likable, if naive, in a sordid world, and her story is compelling. The evocation of Victorian London and life among the poor and unsavory is colorful and authentic. A good approach to a historical setting, with a plucky but flawed heroine. Reviewer: Myrna Marler
The cover of this Dickensian adventure set in nineteenth-century England displays heroine Ivy posing provocatively as Eve for pre-Raphaelite painter Oscar Frosdick. Orphaned at age five, Ivy was forced into the street scams of south London to assist first her scallywag family and then the flame-haired "skinner" Carroty Kate. Laudanum and sleep brings respite from her dismal existence until at sixteen she is spotted as a "stunner" by Frosdick. Unfortunately Frosdick's mother, miffed at being bumped from modeling for her "darling boy," plots a tragic end to Ivy's employment. In the nick of time, Carroty Kate and her colorful crew arrive, hopeful of plunder, and discover Ivy near death. Ivy rallies, rids herself of laudanum, and uses a modeling session gone awry to slip away to her real calling at the Temporary Home for Lost and Starving Dogs. Readers will love the grimy and raucous scenes of London, teeming with a cast of characters conniving to keep both themselves and their various scams alive. Humor abounds, from hoop skirts flipping up and revealing "unmentionables" to the bizarre scene of Frosdick's mother posing in the plum tree. Ivy's easy access to laudanum, her interaction with painter Dante Rosetti, and Carroty Kate's gender revelation provide insight into this historical period. Dialogue is crisp and authentic, and the twisty plot keeps readers guessing. When tenderhearted but languid Ivy finally frees herself of dependence on both drugs and others, she provides the potential for a happy ending and becomes a memorable heroine. Reviewer: Barbara Johnston
Gr 9 Up- In true Dickensian manner, this atmospheric, richly detailed story takes readers from the slums to the upper-class locales of mid-1800s London. Ivy is a victim throughout much of the book, trying to escape villains who seek her demise. Orphaned and living with uncaring relatives, she runs away at the age of five, after bad experiences during her first day at school. Lost, she is lured by Carroty Kate into a gang of thieves, where she becomes addicted to laudanum. Ten years later, Ivy is back with her family, who profit from her work as a model for a pre-Raphaelite artist with an evil, jealous mother. In a fog of addiction, Ivy lives at the mercy of her circumstances until she is finally able to take charge of her future. Quirky characters, darkly humorous situations, and quick action make this enjoyable historical fiction. An afterword about Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his wife Lizzie Siddal as the inspiration for this novel is included.-Denise Moore, O'Gorman Junior High School, Sioux Falls, SD
Ivy's wild red hair and porcelain skin get her daily work as a painter's model, far from Victorian London's slums, but she can't escape a debilitating addiction to the popular drug laudanum. This entertaining Dickensian yarn introduces teen readers to sooty streets, scheming dodgers, ripe Cockney accents and 19th-century class struggles. The clear narrative voice remains agile throughout, nimbly documenting Ivy's pitiful orphan existence in scenes both humorous and horrific. Readers will find themselves rooting for Ivy to take control as she sinks into numb, drug-induced stupors and allows herself to be continually exploited by bullying relatives, a pompous painter and his authentically evil mother. Hearn infuses Ivy with quiet luminosity and a feisty inner voice that convince readers she might fight to claim her own happiness. Teens will find such contemporary issues as addiction, animal cruelty and vegetarianism nestled comfortably within this clever work of historical fiction. Intricate, engaging language and quirky characters paint a vivid picture of the Victorian era. (Fiction. 14 & up)