Splendors and Glooms - Laura Amy Schlitz

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!