Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz

This is quite possibly my #1 middle grade gift recommendation going into the holiday season. (Though I’ve got a lot of love for The Spindlers, too!)

Told from various perspectives, Splendors and Glooms is a Dickensian tale that pretty much has it all: magic, adventure, humor, plucky orphans, dastardly criminals, street urchins—the list goes on. Set mainly in Victorian London (though we take some notable detours), the story follows orphans Lizzie Rose and Parsefall, assistants to the sinister puppeteer Gaspare Grisini.

In contrast to the shabby, hand-to-mouth existence of Lizzie and Parse, young Clara Wintermute lives in the lap of luxury. But even with her warm home and fancy toys, Clara’s life is clouded by sadness and guilt. When Grisini and company are hired to perform for Clara’s birthday party, Lizzie and Parse are immediately drawn to the strange, winsome little girl. But after the party, disaster strikes: Clara disappears, and Grisini is the main suspect.

Haunted by the birthday girl’s hesitant attempt at friendship, Lizzie and Parse set out to solve the mystery of her disappearance. What they find will astonish and amaze them. Don’t worry, readers with delicate constitutions! There’s a happy ending here—for everyone who deserves it, that is.

Baltimore librarian and Newbery medal winner Laura Amy Schlitz (her Victorian thriller A Drowned Maiden’s Hair is another of my favorites) dazzles with lush descriptions, hilarious dialogue, and an utterly engrossing setting. I didn’t want this book to end, and that’s saying something, since it’s almost 400 pages. But those pages flew by! All I wanted to do was curl up in a warm blanket, grab a mug of cocoa, and get lost in this brilliant read.

But don’t take my word for it—check out Cecilia’s glowing review here!

Read on, readers!

—Miss Megan

Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz; Candlewick Press; 17.99; Ages 10-adult

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