- Spell & Spindle by Michelle Schusterman
Library ed. ISBN 978-0-399-55071-3 $19.99
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-399-55070-6 $16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-399-55072-0 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 4-7
When eleven-year-old Chance moves away, his old boss at the Museum of the Peculiar Arts gives him a going-away present: Penny, a life-size marionette, who turns out to be sentient, and who becomes fast friends with Chance. One morning Chance and Penny wake up having swapped bodies, and before they can figure out a way to swap back, a sinister man known only as the puppeteer kidnaps Chance. Chapters rotate among points of view, starting with only Chance and Penny but later expanding to others, especially Chance’s sister Constance, as she and Penny team up to rescue Chance from the Puppeteer. Occasional shifts into peripheral characters reveal a wider mystery connecting a slew of missing children and the truth behind a chilling in-universe fairy tale about soul-stealing puppets. Chance, Penny, and Constance are fully realized, sympathetic characters, all navigating limitations placed on them by others. Even stuck in an immobile marionette, Chance is resourceful and brave, and Penny struggles realistically with whether she can bring herself to give up the agency of a real body for her marionette shell. Constance reveals a complex rebelliousness behind her apparently cheery compliance with the straitened gender roles of the 1950s setting, and through her adventures with [End Page 447] Penny the novel sensitively engages with particularities of race, gender, and class. Schusterman skillfully brings together seemingly disparate plot threads in a thrilling conclusion that will leave readers thoughtful and reassured, even as they savor the last of their chills from the puppeteer’s machinations.