It is officially official – I will read anything that Ms. Schlitz puts out from here to eternity. Her batting average with me is 3.5 for 4 and that’s pretty impressive. I believe Drowned Maiden’s Hair was her debut. It is a book that I still think about. It really surprised me with its fully realized characters, lack of cliché and its surprising plot twists. Then there was Good Masters, Sweet Ladies – which is honestly one of the cleverest books for children I’ve ever encountered. The Night Fairy is the only book of hers that fell a little flat for me. It’s just a little slight and forgettable – especially when compared with the rest of her work.
Then there’s this. That cover – how can you not be drawn in.....but then I felt a little suspicious. A pretty package does not a brilliant novel make! And I know better than most that the Newbery award is no guarantee of greatness either. So, it was with a healthy dose of skepticism that I approached this one. I knew from the first chapter, maybe even the first paragraph, that I had a winner here.
Schlitz just doesn’t waste a single word. She writes with an intense purpose and it shows. Her character development is air tight. Our three principles – Clara, Lizzie Rose and Parcefall are living breathing children. The adult characters may be a little overblown, but that seems real to me when you consider this novel is all about the ways in which adults control and manipulate children – for better or worse.
I suppose if I had one complaint – it would be that the plotting was a little uneven. Some might even say it suffers a bit in comparison with the character development. But, one of the things I love about Schlitz is that I never really know where she’s taking me. There is a surprise around every corner and that’s really kind of exhilarating!