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Better than Girl with a Pearl Earring ...


Capturing her audience with her first sentences, Hearn (Sign of the Raven) paints an almost lush picture of a seamy 19th-century London as she describes two ladies from the "Ragged Children's Welfare Association" who "pick their way along filthy streets, the hems of their crinolines blotting up slush and the beads of their bonnets tinkling like ice." (It's not surprising to learn that Philip Pullman was a mentor.) Among the ladies' intended beneficiaries will be the orphan Ivy, a Pre-Raphaelite beauty--although she spends the bulk of the novel groggy on laudanum, an addiction she picks up very young. Ivy is practically passed around, half asleep, as more of a set piece about which other characters can frolic, scheme and swoon. Fortunately, there's plenty of spunk to go around on Ivy's behalf--from the good-hearted con artist Carroty Kate, who takes the child Ivy in, to the bumbling, aspiring artist Oscar Frosdick, for whom Ivy models, despite the efforts of his conniving mother to keep her away. A fast and absorbing read. Ages 12-up. (June) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Gr 9 Up-In true Dickensian manner, this atmospheric, richly detailed story takes readers from the slums to the upper-class locales of mid-1800s London. Ivy is a victim throughout much of the book, trying to escape villains who seek her demise. Orphaned and living with uncaring relatives, she runs away at the age of five, after bad experiences during her first day at school. Lost, she is lured by Carroty Kate into a gang of thieves, where she becomes addicted to laudanum. Ten years later, Ivy is back with her family, who profit from her work as a model for a pre-Raphaelite artist with an evil, jealous mother. In a fog of addiction, Ivy lives at the mercy of her circumstances until she is finally able to take charge of her future. Quirky characters, darkly humorous situations, and quick action make this enjoyable historical fiction. An afterword about Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his wife Lizzie Siddal as the inspiration for this novel is included.-Denise Moore, O'Gorman Junior High School, Sioux Falls, SD Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

`[Reviews for The Merrybegot]: 'A lively and brilliant work. This book leapt out at me. It startled me and then held my attention.' Gaye Hicyilmaz, TES `Combines magic realism and historical fact in a formula that Julia Hearn has made her own, proving that her brilliant novel Follow Me Down was not just beginner's luck' Sunday Telegraph `A fantastic read' School Librarian `Hearn writes with great Brio and style. Her characters . . . spring from the page. We can hear their voices, and the details of their lives are economically but vividly depicted.' Guardian `Ingeniously structured, with compelling plot twists, it is engrossing and immediate; Hearn has the skill of a conjuror and her novel casts a spell' Sunday Times `A gripping, atmospheric novel, which demands reading at one sitting. Five Stars.' Books for Keeps `Told in clear, vivid prose and peopled with sympathetic characters, it is a huge leap forward for a talented new storyteller' The Times

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