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I, Coriander


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About the Author

Sally Gardner grew up and still lives in London. Being dyslexic, she did not learn to read or write until she was fourteen and had been thrown out of several schools, labeled unteachable, and sent to a school for maladjusted children. Despite this, she gained a degree with highest honors at a leading London art college, followed by a scholarship to a theater school, and then went on to become a very successful costume designer, working on some notable productions. After the births of twin daughters and a son, she started first to illustrate and then to write picture books and chapter books, usually with fairytale- or otherwise magical subject matter. She has been called 'an idiosyncratic genius' by London'sSunday Times.

I, Coriander is her first book for older readers. Her stories for middle readers include Lucy Willow and the popular Magical Children series, The Strongest Girl in the World, The Invisible Boy, The Boy with Magic Numbers, The Smallest Girl in the World, The Boy with the Lightning Feet, and The Boy Who Could Fly. She has also written and illustrated picture books including The Fairy Catalogue, The Glass Heart, The book of Princesses and Playtime Rhymes.


Gr 6-8-This atmospheric blend of historical fiction and original fairy tale spans 15 years in the life of Coriander, daughter of a London merchant and his fairy-princess wife. The protagonist relates the events of her life from early childhood to about age 17, a life shaped by both the politics of Oliver Cromwell's Puritan England and the oddly parallel politics of her mother's fairy kingdom. Moving between England and her mother's world with a pair of magical silver shoes, Coriander recovers a lost treasure, frees an enslaved fairy prince, defeats an evil witch, and then must do the hardest thing of all: decide in which world she ultimately belongs. Readers who love romantic fairy tales will delight in the way her dual heritage allows her to honor her human father and still have her fairy prince. Fans of historical fiction, in turn, will enjoy ornate descriptions of the sights, sounds, and smells of 17th-century London, which unfold in both Coriander's slightly formal voice and through the distinctive dictions of numerous, well-realized secondary characters. The stories of these characters, several shifts in time as Coriander travels between the worlds, a flashback to explain the witch's early involvement in Coriander's life, and other digressions complicate the plot, and the connection between the realms remains unclear at story's end, but these small shortcomings detract little from this absorbing, picturesque tale.-Beth Wright, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington, VT Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

First-time British novelist Gardner coats England's turbulent Commonwealth era with a layer of magic in this stunning tale, narrated by Coriander Hobie. Coriander, a resident of 17th-century London, enjoys a trouble-free, comfortable childhood until her beautiful mother, a well-known healer, dies unexpectedly. The author evokes an aura of mystery and enchantment from the very first chapter, as the heroine begins her life story by introducing the artifacts she holds dear. "On the table next to me is the silk purse that holds my mother's pearls and beside it is the ebony box whose treasure I am only now beginning to understand." She proceeds in seven installments to explain her acquisition of these objects, the secrets they hold and her journey into a fairy world, where she learns startling information about her heritage. Readers will recognize many elements of classic fairy tales here. There is an evil witch, an evil stepmother, good fairies, a handsome prince and magic slippers, all set against the stark backdrop of the beheading of King Charles I, his son's flight from England and Oliver Cromwell's rise to power. Gardner particularizes the impact of these events when Coriander's father, a Royalist, feels pressured to marry "a good Puritan woman" in order to hold onto his property. (But good she is not.) Seamlessly meshing fact and fantasy, the author composes a suspenseful masterpiece that will have audience members gladly suspending their disbelief. Ages 10-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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