A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Laura Amy Schlitz's Splendors and Glooms, a 2013 Newbery Honor Book, mixes historical, realistic fiction with fantasy. Described by many as "Dickensian," the novel reveals class differences and the gritty, squalid life of urban poor in Victorian London, but magical things happen, too. It's generally quite suspenseful, and the child characters are often in danger. There's some adult-on-kid violence -- Grisini beats his charges, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall, to punish them or make them do his dirty work -- gory violence (a magic stone makes make Grisini bleed profusely), and frightening situations, including some involving fire and/or drowning. There's a description of how a character lost one of his fingers. Adults drink alcohol, and a young man forcibly steals a kiss from a young girl.
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What's the story?
In Newbery medalist Laura Amy Schlitz's novel SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS, poor little rich girl Clara Wintermute lives with her parents in a wealthy section of London. Her greatest wish for her birthday is for the puppet troupe she saw in a park one day to perform for her and her party guests. So the puppet master, Grisini, and his assistants, 14-year-old Lizzie Rose Fawr and 12-year-old Parsefall Hooke, visit the Wintermute home and put on their show. Then, not long after they visit, young Clara goes missing. Alleged kidnappers demand ransom from her parents, and Clara's father, Dr. Wintermute, brings the ransom to the appointed place, but the kidnapper never shows up. Meanwhile, an old witch is using her magic to summon Grisini to her estate near Lake Windermere. All of the children's lives soon become entangled with Grisini; the witch, Cassandra; and the Wintermutes. And all the while, Clara is being hidden in plain sight.
Is it any good?
Author Laura Amy Schlitz has created a delightful mix of genres with Splendors and Glooms. Schlitz is equally admired for her wonderful historical fiction (like her Newbery Medal-winning book Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village) as for her fantasy writing (The Night Fairy). This novel offers a revealing, age-appropriate look at life on both sides of the fence in Victorian London. At the same time, it fascinates with a magical plot and characters including a deceitful witch, an evil puppet master, and three deserving children who must unravel more than one mystery. Splendors and Glooms is a dark, wonderful, Dickensian page-turner for preteens.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how author Laura Amy Schlitz is well-regarded for both her realistic historical fiction and her fantasy books. What elements of this book would you call historical fiction, and what's fantasy?
The portrayal of London in Splendors and Glooms has been called "Dickensian." What about it reminds readers of Charles Dickens' books?
Do you think it's right for Clara's parents to take her to Kensel Green on her birthdays and Christmas? Why do you think it was so important to Clara to have the puppet show at her birthday party?
- Author: Laura Amy Schlitz
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Arts and Dance, Book Characters, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, History
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Candlewick Press
- Publication date: August 28, 2012
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 12
- Number of pages: 400
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle
- Award: Newbery Medal and Honors
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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