Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Drowned Maiden's Hair

Title: A Drowned Maiden’s Hair: A Melodrama
Category: Realistic
Grades: 4-8
Author: Laura Amy Schlitz
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Date: 2006
Pages: 389

Maud isn’t pretty or sweet-tempered and her hair simply will NOT curl.  In spite of her brazen and rebellious attitude, she still secretly longs to be adopted more than almost anything.  She is sure her dreams have come true with the lovely Miss Hyacinth takes her home to live with her and her two sisters.  But Hyacinth is a con artist, pretending to connect grieving families with the spirits of their lost ones, and Maude is exactly the child she needs to pull off her biggest scam yet, convincing the wealthy Mrs. Lambert that they have contacted the spirit of her drowned child, Caroline.  Maud is uneasy at first, but Hyacinth assures her they are only giving Mrs. Lambert what she wants.  Maud finally agrees, sure that if she helps Hyacinth earn the money the family needs, she will earn Hyacinth’s love and finally have the family she longs for. 

A thoroughly enjoyable and powerful tale that will keep readers hooked from start to finish.  Maud Flynn is obnoxious, plain and rebellious but fully three-dimensional and never so bad as to turn readers off.  Rather, they will easily relate to her longing for a home, her love of things that look and smell lovely, and her habit of pushing an prim and aggravating orphanage matron’s buttons.  Schlitz has created in Drowned Maiden’s Hair a masterful set of characters quite unlike most seen in children’s literature. From the beautiful, frivolous and entirely self-absorbed Hyacinth to her sisters, wracked with guilt and mixed feelings over Maud’s adoption, to the deaf servant Muffet, who is everything Maud detests, yet proves to be both a staunch friend, and Maud’s true heroine.  At every turn, readers are faced with accepting that people are not always what they seem and cannot be judged by their appearances or manner.  The climax of the story was both powerful, disturbing, and terribly sad, not unlike Jacob Have I Loved in depth, and if the ending is slightly predictable, readers will still be likely to feel satisfied and leave the pages smiling.  A highly recommended read.


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