AT THE SIGN OF THE STAR by Katherine Sturtevant


Age Range: 10 - 14
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Although its feminist message is a bit heavy-handed, this novel, set in 1677, is an engaging and fun story about 12-year-old Meg, the only surviving child of London bookseller Miles Moore. Although Meg is motherless, she leads quite a happy life, helping out in the bookstore, reading countless books, and eagerly lapping up the conversation of authors like John Dryden, playwrights like Aphra Behn, London’s foremost female dramatist, and the other assorted literati who frequent the store. Since she will inherit all her father’s books and copyrights, Meg knows that she will have a good dowry and therefore have more choices than many other young women. “I would not live my life like other women, bound to dreary husbands and household duties. Instead, I would marry into the trade and be a bookseller like my father.” But Meg sees all her plans for the future going up in smoke when her father marries Susannah Beckwith. And as though it weren’t bad enough that Susannah has stolen her father’s attention and affection, she also insists on teaching Meg how to be a proper young lady. To Meg’s dismay, that means less time in the store, less time reading, and all too much time on inane pursuits like needlework. Meg deeply resents her stepmother’s interference and is hurt by her father’s seeming betrayal of his daughter in favor of his new wife. Only when Susannah has a baby and when she also discovers she has a talent for writing does Meg soften towards her stepmother. She realizes that if she wants to ensure that her future will hold something other than a loveless marriage, she has to take a certain amount of control over her own life. Readers will enjoy the period details (booksellers will especially savor the tidbits about bookstore life of the late-17th century.) Like Catherine Called Birdy (1994), an involving story of a feisty and rebellious girl who refuses to conform to the accepted and expected roles of females in their societies. Oddly, in a book for kids, the books listed in the afterword are all adult books. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 16th, 2000
ISBN: 0-374-30449-1
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2000


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