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The importance of knowing one's letters

Fly by night

Title: Fly by night
By: Frances Hardinge

Twelve-year-old Mosca Mye lives in a land superficially similar to, but also fantastically divergent from, England in the early 1700s. Parliament has reached an uneasy compromise with the many factions of resurgent Royalists (each supporting a different would-be-monarch) after deposing and beheading the previous King. Monotheist fanaticism has had its brief but bloody Reign of Terror, and the ascendant bourgeoisie of the Guilds now hold supreme power--but are locked in deadly rivalries with one another. The Watermen control all traffic on the rivers. The Locksmiths take control of city states one by one, Mafia-style. The Stationers burn all printed material that does not bear their Seal of approval...

Mosca, born on the holy day of Goodman Palpitattle ("He Who Keeps Flies out of Jams and Butter Churns"), is the daughter of an ex-Stationer. And she knows how to read. Unfortunately, the appetite for linguistic adventure, once whetted, is difficult to satiate. With limited options for learning new vocabulary in her little village, she falls in with a verbose con artist by the name of Eponymous Clent. Along with Mosca's only friend, a violence-prone goose named Saracen, the duo proceed to blunder and smooth-talk their way through the highest political intrigues and conspiracies, leaving a trail of destruction and deceit behind them.

With chapter titles such as A is for Arson, B is for Blackmail, and C is for Contraband (and H is for High Treason), Hardinge reminds children of the importance of knowing one's letters, and the importance of literacy to civil society. This book is subversive, and unapologetically so. It would never be approved by the Stationers Guild. "Words were dangerous when loosed. They were more powerful than cannon and more unpredictable than storms. They could turn men's heads inside out and warp their destinies. They could pick up kingdoms and shake them until they rattled. And this was a good thing, a wonderful thing..."

View similarly tagged posts: fiction, kids fiction

Posted on April 30, 2015 at 7:12 a.m.

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