Monday, March 05, 2007


A DROWNED MAIDEN'S HAIR: A MELODRAMA by Laura Amy Schlitz (Candlewick)

Her name again. She looked down and saw without surprise that it was Caroline who called it--Caroline, who clung to the rocks of the jetty. Caroline's hair fanned out, floating on the surface of the water. One webbed hand pried itself loose from the rock, groping toward Maud.

Maud understood what Caroline wanted. She wanted Maud to draw her to safety, to pull her from the deep before she drowned. But the webbed hand repelled Maud: it was mucilaginous, transparent, sticky. Maud knew that once she touched that hand, it would adhere to her skin, cling and pinch, and she would lose her balance...

You know those books that make it so the rest of the day just gets in the way of the next moment you can find to turn another page? Inside this book is the reason we read. Also inside this book is the story of Maud Flynn, a deliriously and deliciously defiant heroine, whom Miss Kittridge, the Superintendent of her miserable orphan asylum, predicts will never leave. Who would want such a belligerent, ungifted, dour little girl? A change of fate occurs, however, after visitor Hyacinth Hawthorne finds Maud locked in the outhhouse singing "the Battle Hymn of the Republic" and whisks her away to live a peculiar and secret life. Living as the daughter in a family of spinster spiritualists, Maud Flynn is being preened to play the part of a ghost child scheduled to appear in staged seances in order to bilk a bereaved millionairess of her money. The premise alone was enough to send children tripping over each other in order to be the first to borrow the book in my library, however, the original and cliffhanging storyline is just the icing on the cake.

The true strength of this volume is the incredible texture of the characterization. With every page, we can feel the swelling of the bitten tongue as Maud tries to repress her natural instincts to talk back, the ache of her heart as she seeks to find the love she has been missing in the context of a family of opportunists, reveling in each small attention she recieves for her many talents, and the stormy turmoil of Maud's own awakening as a moral person, coming out of her role as a ghost in order be a member of the living world. Flawed and wounded, Maud is the girl we root for on every page, while covering our eyes, our ears, our mouths in turn at the shocking situations and choices she bravely faces. Detailed, descriptive writing delivers the reader to this weird world; we can practically smell the antiquity of the room, see the dust mites floating in the light from the ragged damask curtains that shroud a place out of time. I am sorry I waited so long to read this, don't make the same mistake! This book has spirit, in every sense of the word...let it cast its spell on your readers 11 and up.

Also of interest:
Read up on our favorite spiritualist ESCAPE! THE STORY OF THE GREAT HOUDINI by Sid Fleischman (Scholastic). This author is also a magician, making for an especially insightful autobiography! Generous prose written with a masterful sense of the young audience also offers subtle opportunities for knowledge about Jewish history, vaudeville, and the power of a little good publicity. An exciting life story written with clarity and enthusaism. (10 and up)

On a personal note:
Thanks for your patience between posts! I haven't abandoned the blog, simply had some personal matters that needed my attention...more to come!

Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So glad you are back! I am reading Drowned Maiden's Hair now and loving it. My nine-year-old and I fight for it every night!



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