Candlewick Press, 2012. 978-0-7636-5380-4
Synopsis: Clara Wintermute, the only child of a wealthy doctor, would love nothing more than to have puppet master Gaspare Grisini come to perform at her birthday party. Lizzie Rose and Parsefall, two orphans apprenticed to Grisini, live in fear of the puppeteer and aspire to do something more with their lives. When Clara mysteriously disappears after her party and Grisini is blamed, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall become involved in a much larger mystery that will uncover a dark secret and ultimately lead them to the key that will help them in finding Clara.
Why I picked it up: It popped up on Amazon while I was researching books to read and the title caught my attention.
Why I finished it: The book draws on the Victorian Gothic tradition to create a tale that is both dark and comic. Schlitz’s plot unfolds slowly, first establishing Clara and then moving gradually from Lizzie Rose to Parsefall to the puppet master Grisini. The mystery portion of the plot is equally tantalizing, keeping the reader guessing and putting together all of the pieces of the puzzle along with the characters. Lizzie Rose, Parsefall, and Clara are engaging as individuals, but some of the best portions of the story deal with the three of them as a whole. Their personalities complement each other and balance out the ‘good’ equation, with Grisini being decidedly evil and underhanded. I was also drawn in by the historical elements of the story; as overused as I feel the Victorian Era might be in literature, it makes for a perfect setting for Schlitz’s tale of magic, mystery, and finding hope in the face of adversity.
Other related materials: Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz; A Drowned Maiden’s Hair: A Melodrama by Laura Amy Schlitz; Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage; The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate; Bomb: The Race to Build – and Steal – The World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin; Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz; When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead; Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin; The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech; Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai; Jinx by Sage Blackwood; Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool; The Apothecary by Maile Meloy; Abel’s Island by William Steig