May 14, 2009

It's All About the Backlist

A Drowned Maiden’s Hair: A Melodrama
by Laura Amy Schlitz
Candlewick Press, 9780763638122

We try so hard to keep up with all of the new children’s books being published that it really surprises me when one slips through. Somehow that happened with this book, published in 2006. I had never read it until Elise from Candlewick (one of my favorite people in the industry!) told me I should give it a try. Then, of course, it sat on my “to read” pile for a few months – but I am so glad it finally made its way to the top!
I admit to a certain predisposition for orphans, and bad girls, and the main character of this book is both. When Maud Flynn gets adopted from the Barbary Asylum for Female Orphans by two elderly sisters, I was very happy for her, until I found out that they wanted her to join the family business – spiritualism. Maud is trained to help the sisters hoodwink a wealthy woman whose daughter has died.

At first she is happy to be included, and she is certainly clever enough to do the work, but as time goes on and it becomes evident that the sisters are using her, I was very pleased when she started making some friends who eventually help rescue her from her situation.

I am in awe of those authors who can weave together many small elements and end up with a big, glorious finish that will make you cheer and cry (but the good kind of cry). Laura Amy Schlitz is in that exclusive group – but of course last year’s Newbery committee figured that out too, didn’t they?

Sigh. I SO dislike it when I’m not on the cutting edge.

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