A Wild Winter Swan

Morrow. Oct. 2020. 240p. ISBN 9780062980786. $27.99. F
It’s Christmastime in the early 1960s, and 15-year-old Laura Ciardi is in crisis. Her father died in World War II, and the death of her beloved older brother in a plane crash led to her mother being institutionalized. Laura now lives in the attic of the Upper East Side home belonging to her paternal Italian grandparents, owners of a fine foods grocery store that’s in financial trouble. She’s just been kicked out of high school after assaulting a classmate and will be heading to boarding school after the holidays. In the midst of this chaos, a boy crashes through the window of her room during a raging snowstorm. To Laura’s shock, she discovers he has a swan wing where his left arm should be. Thus begins a madcap effort for Laura to hide Hans, the boy-swan, until she can construct a wing to send him on his way. It’s not an easy task; his animal stench permeates the house, and he is wildly destructive when left alone.
VERDICT Maguire, whose gift for transforming children’s stories is most famously on display in Wicked, works his magic once again with this retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Wild Swans. An enchanting, tender, often funny coming-of-age story whose perceptive truths about the human condition surprise and delight.

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