Anyone who thinks marionettes are creepy will have that opinion reinforced by this dark tale about three children at the mercy of an unscrupulous puppeteer and the witch who pulls his strings. Clara Wintermute asks her father, a wealthy doctor in 1860 London, to hire Professor Grisini and his Venetian Fantoccini to entertain guests at her 12th birthday party. Clara is stagestruck by the puppets and taken with one of Grisini’s two assistants, the pretty, well-mannered orphan Lizzie Rose (the other assistant, Parsefall, is an urchin straight out of a Dickensian workhouse). After the puppet show, Clara disappears. Grisini is suspected, but he, too, vanishes. The fate of the three children becomes intertwined with Grisini’s old flame, the witch Cassandra Sagredo. It’s a fairly complicated plot, and although the pacing occasionally lags, Newbery Medalist Schlitz (Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!) delivers many pleasures—fully dimensional children, period details so ripe one can nearly smell them, and droll humor that leavens a few scenes of true horror. A highly original tale about children caught in a harrowing world of magic and misdeeds. Ages 9–13. Agent: Stephen Barbara, Foundry Literary + Media. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/02/2012 Release date: 08/28/2012 Genre: Children's
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