A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Splendors and Glooms takes place in Victorian-era London and northern England. Readers will get an idea of Victorian ways of life (food, transportation, city life), as well as ideas of the time and class differences; some characters are wealthy, successful professionals, while others barely survive living hand-to-mouth.
The novel shows that qualities like honesty, kindness, and moral fiber are as likely to be found in a poor urchin as they are in a wealthy doctor's daughter. Selflessness and bravery are rewarded, as well, and cruelty is punished.
Positive Role Models
Splendors and Glooms includes some very good-hearted characters and some very mean ones, in different walks of life. Adults range from well-meaning and unreliable to cruel and deceitful. The great role models in Splendors and Glooms are the children. Lizzie Rose, age 14, is the soul of kind, virtuous young womanhood. Parsefall and Clara are selfless and courageous when it counts.
Violence & Scariness
The puppet master, Grisini, beats his charges, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall, to punish them or make them do his dirty work. The witch, Cassandra, has a magic stone that gives her the sensation and illusion that she's being burned; she uses the magic in the stone to make Grisini bleed profusely, so when Grisini takes a fall, his wounds bleed an exceptional amount. Parsefall is missing a finger on one hand, and the book describes how he lost it. At one point, an adult drowns. Lizzie Rose is accosted by a young man who kisses her and won't release her. An adult aids her, and she remains afraid of the young man.
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"Bloody" a couple of times; "bitch" once.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The landlady, Mrs. Pinchbeck, drinks gin to excess. Lizzie Rose hides the bottle when she feels the woman may overdo it. Cassandra drinks wine and brandy.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.