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Children's Literature Reviews
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At the sign of the star
Katherine Sturtevant.
Contributor biographical information
Publisher description
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000.
140 p. ; 22 cm.


In seventeenth-century London, Meg, who has little interest in cooking, needlework, or other homemaking skills, dreams of becoming a bookseller and someday inheriting her widowed father's book store.

Best Books:

Amelia Bloomer List, 2002 ; ALA Social Responsiblities Round Table (SRRT); United States
Best Children's Books of the Year, 2001 ; Bank Street College of Education; United States
Booklist Book Review Stars, Oct. 15, 2000 ; American Library Association; United States
Booklist Editors' Choice: Books for Youth, 2000 ; American Library Association; United States
Capitol Choices, 2000 ; The Capitol Choices Committee; United States
Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, Supplement, 2002 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Children's Catalog, Nineteenth Edition, 2006 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Los Angeles' 100 Best Books, 2000 ; IRA Children's Literature and Reading SIG and the Los Angeles Unified School District; United States
Middle And Junior High School Library Catalog, Supplement to the Eighth Edition, 2001 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Publishers Weekly Book Review Stars, October 2000 ; Cahners; United States

Awards, Honors, Prizes:

Bay Area Book Reviewers Association Award, 2001 Nominee Children's Literature United States
California Book Awards, 2000 Silver Medal Young Adult United States

State and Provincial Reading Lists:

Lamplighter Award , 2003 ; Nominee; United States

Reading Measurement Programs:

Accelerated Reader
Interest Level Upper Grade
Book Level 5.6
Accelerated Reader Points 5
Accelerated Vocabulary

Lexile, MetaMetrics, Inc.
Lexile Measure 860

Reading Counts-Scholastic
Interest Level 6-8
Reading Level 6
Title Point Value 10
Lexile Measure 860


Carolyn Phelan (Booklist, Oct. 15, 2000 (Vol. 97, No. 4))
Working in her widowed father's London bookshop in 1677, twelve-year-old Meg loves being on the fringe of the literary world and talking with her father and their customers about books. In addition, she feels secure knowing that the business she will inherit will give her the financial freedom to marry a man of her choosing. So when her father remarries, Meg finds the adjustment difficult. Not only must she now acknowledge that she will probably not inherit the bookshop, she must also accept her stepmother's tutelage in household skills and womanly decorum. Those lessons come hard to the quick-witted, rebellious child, who finds quiet, spiteful ways to needle her stepmother. Gradually, though, Meg comes to accept her new place in her old home and the inevitability of change itself. It's commonplace to find that the heroine in historical fiction is a strong-willed girl, reluctant to be bound by the conventions of a past society, but Meg seems less like a child transplanted from the late twentieth century than a product of her own times. In this novel, Sturtevant creates a vivid sense of a different culture through the vocabulary, speech patterns, and reactions of the characters, as well as the many details that make up the lively backdrop of seventeenth-century London. Readers will end the book hoping for a sequel to this engaging story, which is set in a period little visited in historical novels for young people. Category: Books for Middle Readers--Fiction. 2000, Farrar, $16. Gr. 4-8. Starred Review

Kathleen Orosz (Children's Literature)
In this historical fiction, the protagonist, 12-year-old Meg, lives with her father in London in 1677. Her mother had died in childbirth 4 years before. Since then, Meg has struggled as an only child in a strict Victorian household, with only her maidservant as a companion and friend. Yet, quickly, we sense the spirit that drives her to take full advantage of the treasures she discovers in her father's bookstore. There she reads books written by established authors, as well as new and unconventional beginning writers. Meg revels in the exposure to this environment. While this is a work of fiction, the author incorporates poets and playwrights who actually existed into the story. She educates readers about the roles of women through Meg's introduction to the works of Aphra Behn, the first female playwright in England. As Meg struggles with changes in her life, we see her mature and develop into a budding writer herself. Most readers would welcome a sequel to this book. 2000, Douglas and McIntyre, $16.00. Ages 11 up.

CCBC (Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices, 2001)
As a bookseller's only child, young Meg looks forward to inheriting her father's shop one day. She imagines a life of rubbing elbows with writers and lively conversations with fellow readers. But she sees her future slip away when her father remarries a woman with whom he is certain to have a male heir. As a young woman in 17th century England, Meg now foresees a bleak future of marriage and drudgery. She takes out all of her anger and frustration on her father's new wife, Susannah, by making her life as difficult as she possibly can, even though there are subtle hints that Meg might find in Susannah a kindred spirit, if she would give her a chance. Finally, Susannah takes Meg to a new play by Aphra Behn, a woman playwright whose example holds a new kind of hope for Meg. Katherine Sturtevant's first novel for children has splendid three-dimensional characters, realistically developed in the context of their times. An author's note at the end of the book gives a biography of the real Aphra Behn and other women writers of the era and discusses some of the books used by the author in her historical research. CCBC categories: Fiction for Children; The Arts; Historical People, Places, and Events. 2000, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 140 pages, $16.00. Ages 11-14.

Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2000 (Vol. 68, No. 19))
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. 2000, Farrar Straus & Giroux, $16.00. Category: Fiction. Ages 10 to 14. © 2000 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
Though her mother died four years ago, the heroine of this novel set in 1677 London feels fortunate indeed: her father is a bookseller and publisher, and she is his only heir. Thanks to her anticipated dowry, she will have an unusual degree of freedom: "I would not live my life like other women, bound to dreary husbands and household duties." With her love of books and her admiration of Restoration London's great wits, the hours Meg spends working in her father's shop bring great pleasure. But all this changes when Meg's father takes a new wife: not only is Meg's inheritance jeopardized by the possible birth of a half brother, she must also study the womanly arts she scorns at the side of her stepmother, Susannah. Refreshingly, Meg's struggle to come to terms with her altered situation never degenerates into a battle of one-dimensional tomboyish virtue against uncomprehending femininity. Though readers never lose sight of Meg's predicament, Susannah is gradually and convincingly revealed to be as sympathetic and as hardheaded as her stepdaughter. Avoiding simplistic devices, resolution is achieved through perseverance and genuine emotional growth. Admirers of historical fiction will relish Sturtevant's (A Mistress Moderately Fair, for adults) detailed depiction of life in the great city, including a trip to Vauxhall, a visit to the theater (where Aphra Behn's work is performed) and the simple errands that take Meg through the smoky, noisy and beguiling streets. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)

Elizabeth Stephens (The ALAN Review, Fall 2000 (Vol. 28, No. 1))
Living in a single parent home, accepting her father's new bride, and finding her place as she enters adulthood are issues that Margaret shares with many girls today. The difference is that Margaret is living in Medieval England. The daughter of a widowed bookseller, Margaret knew from a very young age that she would inherit her father's shop and have a sizable dowry. Yet, fate intervenes. After seeing a comet and consulting a Medieval astrologer about her fate, Margaret learns that her future will take a less than desired course. Simply, her father's marriage will signal the end of Margaret's dream's of family bliss, and more importantly, her father's attention. Soon, though, Margaret learns to adjust to this sudden change and in so doing, challenges herself to become a writer--a time when women writers were very rare. The author's thorough research of Restoration England makes for an enjoyable and an informative read. A must for learning about Medieval England. Genre: Growing-Up/Historical Fiction 2000, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 140p, $??. Ages 10 up.Southwest Texas State University, San Marcos, Texa

Jeanne M. Gerlach (The ALAN Review, Winter 2001 (Vol. 28, No. 2))
Twelve-year-old Meg Moore is the motherless only child of a bookseller with a thriving business in Restoration London -- and that makes her an heiress. This is the story of Meg Moore's growth to awareness. Set in a British era when women were subservient to men, this work looks at the life of a motherless girl, who is faced not only with a changing family, but with a society who is in the middle of defining new roles for women. Her experiences and her dreams take her to a new maturity that will help her control her future. And help her secure her deserved fortune. As the story unfolds, Meg finds herself in a stepfamily that she mistrusts and a future that is uncertain. Seeking the advice of everyone from astrologers to literary scholars, Meg gradually learns to assert herself and her new found womanhood. Sturtevant's story and characters are believable and realistic. Adolescent readers will not only be drawn into the characters' lives, but they will come away from the reading with a better sense of the Restoration. Genre: Growth to Awareness. 2000, Farrar Straus & Giroux, 137 pp., $16.00. Ages 12 up.Arlington, Texas

Fern Kory (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, January 2001 (Vol. 54, No. 5))
The sign of the star is the symbol of the shop owned by Meg's father, a genial publisher/bookseller. It also refers to the comet that twelve-year-old Meg and her cousin see in the London sky on a portentous night in 1677. The calamity foretold by the heavenly sign turns out to be Meg's father's plan to marry again, which may turn Meg from acknowledged heir ("Someday all my books will be yours, and my copyrights. . . . With such a dowry you need not trouble yourself about marrying an old man nor a sour one. You may choose someone in the trade, if you like, and be a partner to him as your mother was to me") to dispossessed daughter if the new wife produces a son. Though many allusions (to "papists," for example) are not explained, the physical and economic harshness and even the bawdiness of the place and time in which Meg battles with her father, stepmother, and, eventually, her own conscience is clearly evoked. The literary milieu is only sketchily drawn through the names of the literati (John Dryden, Aphra Behn) with whom Meg's father hobnobs and quotations and chapter titles from period books, and there's little overall period sensibility despite the details. Meg's father hobnobs and quotations and chapter titles from period books, and there's little overall period sensibility despite the details. Still, the characters and conflicts are satisfyingly complex, and though the focus of the novel is on the peculiarly difficult situation of women in late seventeenth century England, the more overt message of the book also offers contemporary readers something to ponder: "We do not know our futures, though we sometimes think we do. . . . We do not know what every comet means." Review Code: Ad -- Additional book of acceptable quality for collections needing more material in the area. (c) Copyright 2001, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 2000, Farrar, 140p, $16.00. Grades 5-8.

Sherry York (VOYA, December 2000 (Vol. 23, No. 5))
Twelve-year-old Meg enjoys life in 1677 London as the only surviving child of Miles Moore, widowed publisher and bookseller at the Sign of the Star. Meg likes the companionship of the maidservant Hester and relishes spending time in the bookshop, where she reads almanacs, sermons, grammars, poetry, and plays as she becomes acquainted with customers, including John Dryden and other learned men. Until her father's marriage, Meg had planned to marry into the printing trade and become a bookseller with her father. She resents her new stepmother's efforts to train her in the womanly arts and behaves spitefully toward her father and stepmother. A clever girl, Meg uses knowledge gained from her reading slyly to torment them both. After attending the theater at Dorset Gardens, she is inspired to write a play secretly like Aphra Behn, London's female playwright. When a baby brother is born, Meg realizes that he likely will be her father's heir if he survives to adulthood, but she becomes reconciled to her changed circumstances and realizes that her own future still is filled with possibilities. The historical setting is elicited through realistic details with ample atmosphere, but some conversations seem stilted. The story might appeal to young readers who enjoy historical fiction, particularly to those interested in the role of women in historical settings, but it is not likely to have a wide appeal. Connections to world history and drama classes are feasible. VOYA CODES: 3Q 2P M J S (Readable without serious defects; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2000, Farrar Straus Giroux, 144p, $16. Ages 11 to 18.


Sex role Fiction.
Booksellers and bookselling Fiction.
Remarriage Fiction.
London (England)--History--17th century Juvenile fiction.
London (England)--History--17th century Fiction.
Great Britain--History--1660-1714--Fiction.
LanguageCall NumberLCCNDewey DecimalISBN/ISSN
English (eng) PZ7.S94127 At 2000
00020448 [Fic]
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