Meggy Swann is appalled by the bustle and filth of Elizabethan London when her father, an alchemist who doesn’t set much store by truth or integrity, summons her to the city to work as his apprentice. Meggy has been used to living a secluded life in a country village with only her grandmother and her goose Louise as friends. With her crippled legs, Meggy has endured taunts and threats, but her father’s utter contempt for her surpasses all the difficult experiences of her past.

Guarded, skeptical and tentative, Meggy surprises herself by making several friends in her new London neighborhood. As her father works toward his goal—discovering the secret to transforming ordinary metals into gold and giving humans immortality—she works tirelessly as his apprentice despite her weak legs and walking canes. She considers him a harmless if devoted alchemist until she discovers his dark secret, a secret she is determined to make right in her own unorthodox way.

Newbery winner Karen Cushman shows the realities of day-to-day life through believable and endearing characters whose lives are representative of their time period. In Alchemy and Meggy Swann, Cushman provides virtually no backstory for Meggy and no indications of her future, choosing instead to focus only on her first few weeks in London. Using the language of Elizabethan London, she brings the story vividly to life for young readers and provides a fascinating look at life in the 16th century.

 

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