How would you know if you were special?
Mr. Fountain's grand mansion is a world away from the dark orphanage Rose had left behind. The gleaming, golden house is practically overflowing with sparkling magicshe can feel it. And though Rose had always wanted to be an ordinary girl with an ordinary life, she realizes she may possess a little bit of magic herself.
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"Warm and sparkling and magical and fun."Hilary McKay, bestselling author of Saffy's Angel
"A skillfully spun, spell-binding mystery that will catch you up in a web of wonder."Junior Education Plus
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Rose peered out the corner of the window at the street below, watching interestedly as two little girls walked past with their nursemaid. They were beautifully dressed in matching pale pink coats, and she found them fascinating. How could anyone keep a pink coat clean? She supposed they just weren't allowed to see dirt, ever. The little girls strolled sedately down the street, and Rose stretched up on tiptoe to get one last look as they turned the corner. The bucket she was standing on rocked and clattered alarmingly, and she jumped down in a hurry, hoping no one had heard. The tiny, leaded windows at St. Bridget's Home for Abandoned Girls were all very high up, so that the girls were not tempted to look out of them. If any of the matrons realized that Rose had discovered a way to see out, they would do their utmost to stop her-in case her virtue was put at risk by the view of the street. Perhaps they would even outlaw buckets, just in case.
Rose straightened her brown cotton pinafore and trotted briskly along the deserted passageway to the storeroom to return the bucket. She stowed it carefully on one of the racks of wooden shelves, which was covered in more buckets, brushes, and cloths. If anyone saw her, she was planning to say that she had been polishing it.
"Pssst! Rose!" A whisper caught her as she headed for the storeroom door, and Rose shot around, her back against the wall.
A small, grayish hand beckoned to her from under the bottom shelf, behind a large tin bath. "Come and see!"
Rose took a deep breath, her heartbeat slowing again. No one had seen her unauthorized use of the bucket. It was only Maisie.
"What are you doing under there?" she asked, casting a worried look at the door. "You'll get in trouble. Come on out."
"Look," the whispery voice pleaded, and the grayish fingers dangled something tempting out from under the shelf.
"Oh, Maisie." Rose sighed. "I've seen it before, you know. You showed it to me last week." But she still crouched down and wriggled herself under the shelf with her friend.
It was Sunday afternoon. At St. Bridget's, that meant many of the girls had been in Miss Lockwood's parlor, viewing the relics, the tiny, sad little things that had been left with them when they were abandoned. Rose didn't have any relics, which was why it was a good time for borrowing buckets. Even if anyone saw her, they would probably be too full of silly dreams to care.
"Do you think it's meant to hold a lock of hair?" Maisie asked wistfully. "Or perhaps a likeness?"
Rose stared thoughtfully at the battered tin locket. It looked as though it had been trodden on and possibly buried in something nasty, but it was Maisie's most treasured possession-her only possession, for even her clothes were only borrowed.
"Oh, a likeness, I'm sure," she told Maisie firmly, wrapping an arm around her friend's bony shoulder. Really she had no idea, but she knew Maisie dreamed about that locket all week, and the hour on Sunday when she got to hold it was her most special time, and Rose couldn't spoil it for her.
"Maybe of my mother. Or perhaps it was hers, and she had my father's picture in it. Yes, that would have been it. I bet he was handsome," Maisie said dreamily.
"Mmmm," Rose murmured diplomatically. Maisie wasn't ugly exactly, but she was very skinny, and no one looked beautiful with their hair cropped short in case of lice. It was hard to imagine either of her parents as handsome.
All Rose's friends spent Sundays in a dream world, where they were the long-lost daughters of dukes who would one day sweep them away in a coach-and-four to reclaim their rightful inheritance.
Strangely though, unlike all the other girls, Rose did not dream. She had no relic to hang her dreams on, but that wasn't the main reason. Quite a few of the others didn't either, and it didn't hold them back at all. Rose just wanted to get out of St. Bridget's as soon as she possibly could. It wasn't that it was a bad place-the schoolmistress read them lots of improving books about children who weren't lucky enough to have a home. They lived on the streets and always went from bad to worse in ways that were never very clearly explained. Girls at St. Bridget's were fed, even though there was never enough food to actually feel full, only just enough to keep them going. They had clothes, even a set of Sunday best for church and the yearly photograph. The important thing was, they were trained for domestic service, so that when they were old enough, they could earn their own living. If Rose dreamed at all, that was what she dreamed of. She didn't want to be a lady in a big house. She'd settle for being allowed to clean one and be paid for it. And perhaps have an afternoon off, once a month, although she had no idea what she would do.
Occasionally, girls who'd left St. Bridget's came back to show themselves off. They told giggly tales of being admired by the second footman, and they had smart outfits that hadn't been worn by six other girls before them, like Rose's black Sunday dress and coat. She knew because the other girls' names had been sewn in at the top. Two of them even had surnames, which was very grand. Rose was only Rose, and that was because the yellow rose in Miss Lockwood's tiny garden had started to flower on the day she'd been brought to St. Bridget's by the vicar. He'd found her in the churchyard, sitting on the war memorial in a fish basket and howling. If Rose had been given to dreaming like the others, she might have thought that it meant her father had been a brave soldier, killed in a heroic charge, and that her dying mother couldn't look after her and had left her on the war memorial, hoping that someone would care for a poor soldier's child. As it was, she'd decided her family probably had something to do with fish.
Rose hated fish. Although of course in an orphanage, you ate what there was, and anyone else's if you got half a chance. She knew no grand lady was going to sweep into the orphanage and claim her as a long-lost daughter. It must have been a bad year for fish, that was all. It didn't bother her-just made her all the more determined to make a life for herself outside.
"What do you think they were like?" Maisie asked pleadingly. Rose was good at storytelling. Somehow her stories lit up the dark corners of the orphanage where they hid to tell them.
Rose sighed. She was tired, but Maisie looked so hopeful. She settled herself as comfortably as she could under the shelf, tucking her dress under her feet to keep warm. The storeroom was damp and chilly, and smelled of wet cleaning cloths. She stared dreamily at the side of the tin bath, glistening in the shadows. "You were two, weren't you, when you came to St. Bridget's?" she murmured. "So you were old enough to be running about everywhere...Yes. It was a Sunday, and your parents had taken you to the park to sail your boat in the fountain."
"A boat!" Maisie agreed blissfully.
"Yes, with white sails, and ropes so you could make the sails work, just like real ones." Rose was remembering the illustrations from Morally Instructive Tales for the Nursery, which was one of the books in the schoolroom. The two little boys who owned the boat in the original story fought about who got to sail it first, which obviously meant that one of them drowned in the fountain. Most of the books in the schoolroom had endings like that. Rose quite enjoyed working out the exact point when the characters were beyond hope. It was usually when they lied to get more jam.
"You were wearing your best pink coat, but your mother didn't mind if you got it wet." Rose's voice became rather doubtful here. She hadn't been able to resist putting in the pink coat, but really, it was too silly...Suddenly she realized that Maisie was gazing longingly at the side of the tin bath.
"Yes, look, it's got flower-shaped buttons! Are they roses, Rose?"
Rose gulped. "I'm not sure," she murmured, staring wide-eyed at the picture flickering on the metal.
"Daisies, I think..." Had she done that? She knew her stories were good-she was always being bothered for them, so they must be-but none of them had ever come with pictures. Pictures that moved. A tiny, plump, pretty Maisie was jumping and clapping as a nattily dressed gentleman blew her boat across a sparkling fountain. White trousers! Rose's matter-of-fact side thought disgustedly. Has this family no sense?
"Oh, the picture's fading! No, no, bring it back, Rose! I want to see my mother!" Maisie wailed.
"Ssssh! We aren't meant to be here, Maisie, we'll be caught."
Maisie wasn't listening. "Oh, Rose, it was so pretty! I was so pretty! I want to see it again-"
"Girls!" A sharp voice cut her off. "What are you doing in here? Come out at once!"
Rose jumped and hit her head on the shelf. The picture promptly disappeared altogether, and Maisie burst into tears.
"Come out of there! Who is that? Rose? And you, Maisie! What on earth are you doing?"
Rose struggled out, trying not to cry herself. Her head really hurt, a horrible sharp throbbing that made her feel sick. Of all the stupid things to do! This was what happened when you started making pictures on baths. Miss Lockwood looked irritable. "Maisie, you know you're not supposed to take that out of my office," she snapped, reaching down and seizing the locket. The flimsy chain broke, and Maisie howled even louder, tugging at the trailing end.
Rose could tell that Miss Lockwood was horrified. She really hadn't meant to snap the locket, and she knew how Maisie treasured it. But she couldn't back down now. "Silly girl! Now you've broken it. Well, it's just what you deserve." Red in the face, she stuffed it into the little hanging pocket she wore on her belt and swept out. "Go to bed at once! There will be no supper for either of you!" she announced grandly at the door.
"Well, that's no great loss," Rose muttered, putting an arm around Maisie, who was crying in great heaving gulps.
"Yes," Rose admitted gently. "Yes, she did. But I'm sure we can mend it. Next Sunday. I'll help, Maisie, I promise. And I don't think she meant to. I think she was sorry, Maisie. She could have made us stand in the schoolroom with books on our heads all evening, like she did to Florence last week. No supper's not that bad. It would only be bread and milk."
"It might not be," sniffed Maisie, who seemed determined to look on the black side of things. "It might be cake."
Rose took her hand as they trailed dismally back to their dormitory. "Maisie, it's always bread and milk! The last time we had cake was for the coronation, nearly three years ago!" Rose sighed. She couldn't help feeling cross with Maisie for getting her into trouble-but not very cross. After all, she'd been tempting fate with the windows anyway. Maisie was so tiny and fragile that Rose always felt sorry for her. "Do you want me to tell you a story?" she asked resignedly, as they changed into their nightclothes.
"Will you make the pictures come again?" Maisie asked, her eyes lighting up.
"I don't know," Rose told her honestly. "It's never happened before. And there might be trouble if we get caught. I'm sure it's not allowed."
"It isn't in the Rules," Maisie said, pouting. "I know it isn't."
Miss Lockwood read the Rules on Sundays before church, so they'd heard them that morning. Rose had to admit that Maisie was right; she didn't remember a rule about making pictures on baths. Which was odd. It must mean that it wasn't a very common thing to do because the Rules covered everything-even the exact length of an orphan's fingernails.
"It just feels like something that wouldn't be allowed..." Rose said. Which is why it's such fun, part of her wanted to add. "Oh, all right. But I think it needs something shiny for it to work." She looked around thoughtfully. The dormitory was long and narrow, high up in the attics of the old house. Everything was very clean, but shiny was in short supply. There was hardly room for the girls to move between the narrow, gray-blanketed beds, let alone space for polished furniture.
Maisie followed her, craning her neck to peer into corners. "My boots are shiny!" she suggested brightly.
Rose was about to say they couldn't be, then realized that Maisie was right. All the girls' shoes were made and mended by the boys from St. Bartholomew's orphanage over the wall. They had a cobblers' workshop where the girls had a laundry, so that they could be trained up for a useful trade. Maisie's boots had just come back from being mended, and they were black and shiny, even if they'd been patched so often that there was nothing left of the original boot. If she could make pictures on a bath, why not a boot?
The two girls sat huddled together under Rose's blankets, staring at the polished leather. "It'll be a lot smaller, if it even works," Rose warned.
"I don't mind." Maisie didn't take her eyes off the boot. "I want to see what happened."
"It isn't really what happened..." Rose reminded her. "Just a story I'm making up, you know that, don't you?"
"Yes, yes." Maisie flapped her hand at Rose irritably, but Rose didn't think she was really listening. "Show me!"
Long after Maisie had cried herself to sleep that night-heartbroken by the flickering image of her tiny self running through the park and crying for her mother-and the other girls had come chattering to bed, Rose lay awake.
Had she made it all up? It had seemed so real somehow. What if I've turned into a fortune-teller? Rose worried to herself. She didn't believe in fortune-tellers. But of course she'd invented it-she'd put in that pink coat, from the little girls she'd seen out the window. So if it wasn't real, why had it upset Maisie so much? Why had she believed it more than all Rose's other stories? The pictures, Rose told herself. The pictures made it seem too real. I wanted to believe it too. I'm not doing that again.
Next to her, Maisie's breath was still catching as she slept, her thin shoulders shuddering, as if she were dreaming it all over again-the lost child that she believed was her, running around the glittering fountain to fetch her boat, then turning back and seeing only other children's parents.
Rose didn't know how she'd done it. This had never happened when she told stories before today. She hadn't done anything differently-not that she could think of. But she must never, ever let it happen again. It was too strong. Rose was sure she'd made it up-or almost sure-but now Maisie had seen it, for her it was real. She would remember it forever.
Although, Rose thought, as she eventually closed her eyes, if it were true, the boat would be in Miss Lockwood's office, with the other relics...So it couldn't be. It was just a story. But her stories had never frightened her before.
What People are Saying About This
"Warm and sparkling and magical and fun." —Hilary McKay, author, Saffy's Angel
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Oh my goodness I loved this book! Magic, mystery, adventure, and friendship - this book has it all. The characters are delightful children, each searching for their special place in the world. Each one is an interesting addition and their stories all weave together to create the plot. I especially loved the unlikely friendship that sprang up between Rose and Freddie. Rose has a special gift for magic, but it's something she doesn't understand and it frightens her. The other servants don't understand magic either, and Rose feels constantly on edge because of her ability that she is trying to hide. Rose battles her desire to learn about magic and her desire to be rid of it. She is a strong, capable young lady with determination and the courage to do the impossible. She is a great protagonist. ** Spoiler Alert - My only complaint has to do with one inconsistency. Rose continuously pines after being able to learn about magic and not be a servant anymore, but when she is given the opportunity (several times) she turns it down because she just wants to be a servant. While I understand that she has conflicting feelings, it felt like the author just couldn't make up her mind. Regardless of that minor bump in the road, I loved the book and would heartily recommend it to kids ages 9 and up, especially to fans of Harry Potter. It is a little disturbing at the very end, so don't give it to a squeamish kid.
Rose was an orphan who lived at St Bridget's Home for Abandoned Girls. She had been abandoned as a baby with nothing to show of where she came from; except possibly an unusual talent. But even her name was borrowed from the rose bush at the orphanage.While other girls daydreamed of one day finding loving, and wealthy, parents who would one day return for them, Rose was imagining more practical dreams. All she wanted was employment as a maid, her own wages and freedom from the orphanage. One day her dream came true.Rose had found employment as a maid at the home of Mr Fountain, a magician. Rose is initially unsure about magic, but it's something she can not ignore. Rose has a new home and new friends, but when her old friend disappears Rose is determined to find her. But she is not the only one; children have started disappearing all over London.Rose is a magical and mysterious story that is endearing and instantly appealing. Rose is practical and thoughtful, but also funny and very enchanting. It is an exciting and inventive story of magicians and witches, talking cats, mist-monsters, treacle and friendships.
Rose from the orphanage is selected to become a housekeeper at the house of Mr Fountain a very important magician. The problem is she shows signs of magic which is not approved of by the kitchen staff. But when children start going missing, and Mr Fountain becomes besotted by a strange lady, Rose finds her magic to be pretty useful.I loved this book and would recommend it to children who like a bit of magic in their lives. If you loved Harry Potter this will be good for you
This book is really good
All that I love in a middle-grade read with magic is in this book. The quirky, lovable characters; the historical setting; the mystery and intrigue. And, most importantly, the spunky lead who must find her way in this crazy (awesome) world. Rose is a likable character. She's brave and intelligent. Most importantly, she's independent and inquisitive, someone who can survive without any delusions about life. Unlike the other orphans who invent fantastical stories about their origins, she seeks only to make her way around the world in a realistic manner. This means that she's subject to prejudice; however, she's an adaptable character and learns to practice more open-mindedness when she gets put in a situation that requires it. Rose is a story filled with magic and adventure. There is rarely a page without something happening to contribute to the plot or Rose's character. While the story isn't altogether new, it is a classic that has had new life brought to it. Older readers will be as enchanted as the middle-grade audience for which this was intended, as they find themselves returning to the magical reads of their childhood.
This working now
I had just gone to Barnes and Noble today. I had bought this book while I was there. My Mom had convinced Me to get this one. When we got home she said that she might have to borrow it from Me. Because the back of the book sounded very good. I was just going to look at the reviews and yours makes it sound super delightful.