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THE STAIRCASE by Ann Rinaldi


by Ann Rinaldi

Age Range: 12 - 14

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-15-202430-1
Publisher: Harcourt

Set in 1878, Rinaldi’s latest work of historical fiction is at once enlightening and highly engrossing. After the untimely death of her mother, Lizzy’s father leaves her in Santa Fe at a convent school. With a healthy sense of irony, Lizzy often finds the convent ways absurd. While many of the girls seek visions of the Virgin Mary, Lizzy is a nonbeliever and without affectation. The girls ostracize her, so she finds friendship with an odd assortment of people, including a homeless, old carpenter in need of food and shelter. Lizzy convinces the Bishop to hire the carpenter to build a badly needed staircase for the new choir loft. The other students resent the carpenter, however, as they await the appearance of a staircase through a miracle of St. Joseph. As the wait lengthens and tempers flare, Lizzy’s roommate and nemesis cruelly blinds Lizzy’s kitten. The carpenter offers many words of gentle comfort to Lizzy and soothes her wounded kitten. The carpenter is finally permitted to finish his work, and the kitten, against odds, regains its sight. The entire town is awestruck by the incomparable beauty of the spiral staircase, but the carpenter vanishes without even collecting his pay. Lizzy is never converted to Catholicism, but she and the reader are left to ponder the nature of miracles and human kindness. It is a pleasure to accompany Lizzy throughout this tale thrumming with mini-adventures and vivid characters. (author’s note, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 12-14)