Falcon in the Glass

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Falcon in the Glass Book Poster Image
Exciting tale of boy glassblower in Renaissance Italy.

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Kids say

age 10+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Kids will learn a lot of detail about the art of glassblowing in Murano, Italy, during the Renaissance, from technical details about how glassblowing was done to how the industry was managed by the rulers of the time. Some cultural aspects of Venetian life are also shown, like the celebration of Carnivale, and the way the Venetian Lagoon influenced the daily life of its inhabitants.

Positive Messages

The rewards of working hard at something, practicing over and over until you get it right, are demonstrated, as are the benefits and rewards of learning to work together. Renzo learns that sometimes you have to make really hard decisions for other people's benefit, sometimes even at great cost to yourself.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Renzo is tremendously responsible for his family, friends, and workplace. He's very diligent and keeps trying until he gets it right. Letta also shoulders a lot of responsibility, caring for a half dozen young orphans without adult help. She's smart, brooks no nonsense, and demands and commands respect performing tasks women aren't supposed to do. Adults run the gamut from Renzo's loving, scolding mother and his largely absent uncle Vittorio, who's on the run from the law but a big help to Renzo when the chips are down, to the bad-guy assassin.

Violence

Blood from injuries is mentioned about a half-dozen times, most often without gore, but in one instance the gore is explicit: There's more of it, an injured eye socket is described as "bloody pulp," and the physical sensation of stabbing someone is described in detail. Renzo finds a dead bird and removes the arrow that killed it, but the passage has no gore. Dead bodies are mentioned, as is the intent to burn one to hide its identity. A pet bird dies.

Sex

One character mentions "wenching" as an aspect of his life. "Half-moons of pink rounded breasts" are part of a description of someone seen in passing. Renzo eventually becomes aware of an attraction to Letta and to deeper feelings for her, but there's no flirtatious behavior and he doesn't act on those feelings.

Language

"Piss" is used twice for urine. Botched attempts at glassblowing are referred to as "abortions" once.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Renzo's murdered father is described as having eaten and drunk too much. Once, Renzo goes to a tavern with adults and drinks wine there with his dinner, to excess. This is presented as a norm in the story as an entitlement for 12- or 13-year-old Renzo after a rite of passage.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Falcon in the Glass is an absorbing tale of Renzo, a boy of about 13, in Renaissance Italy. Kids will learn a lot about life in that time. Renzo and his friend Letta, a girl the same age, model good, responsible behavior. The violence is infrequent and mostly consists of mentioning blood, but in one scene, injuries are described with some gore. There's no swearing or sexual behavior. Renzo drinks wine once with adults. It's acceptable behavior in context, but he does drink to excess and suffers no direct consequences.

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Teen, 16 years old Written byBrigidArmbrust October 21, 2018

What's the story?

Young Renzo, who lives in Murano, Italy, during the Renaissance, wants to follow in his murdered father's footsteps by becoming a glassblower. But to be accepted as an apprentice he'll first have to pass a difficult test of skill. When Letta starts bringing a small troupe of orphans into the workshop at night to keep them warm, she and Renzo work together to build Renzo's skills enough to pass the test. There's something different about Letta and the orphans, though. They're able to communicate with birds in a special way, and when rumors of witchcraft start, the children are imprisoned. The only adult who can help him is his uncle Vittorio, but Murano's ruling Council of Ten has set an assassin on his trail. Renzo struggles to learn how a man decides what's right: If he tries to help the orphans escape, he'll jeopardize the career his family's so dependent on for survival.

Is it any good?

FALCON IN THE GLASS is an absorbing tale set in 1497 Italy that's rich in historical detail. Despite an awkward beginning, the novel brings the past and the characters believably to life, shifting easily among many different narrators.

Susan Fletcher's prose particularly soars in the few short passages told from a bird's point of view, which will really spark young imaginations. Fletcher doesn't rely on a lot of action or violence, instead using her considerable narrative skills to keep the story moving and the pages turning.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why is historical fiction so popular. How would Renzo's story be different if it took place nowadays?

  • The author uses a lot of different points of view to tell the story. How might some of the events be told if the same person told the story throughout?

  • Did the chapters narrated by the assassin change how you felt about him?

Book details

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