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Cover image for A drowned maiden's hair : a melodrama
A drowned maiden's hair : a melodrama



1st ed.
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Candlewick Press, ©2006.
Physical Description:
389 pages ; 21 cm
Pt. 1. The secret child: spring 1909 -- pt. 2. The drowned child: summer 1909 -- pt. 3. Full circle: fall 1909.
At the Barbary Asylum for Female Orphans, eleven-year-old Maud is adopted by three spinster sisters moonlighting as mediums who take her home and reveal to her the role she will play in their seances.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader/Renaissance Learning MG 4.7 11.


Call Number

On Order



"People throw the word 'classic' about a lot, but A Drowned Maiden's Hair genuinely deserves to become one." -- Wall Street Journal

Maud Flynn is known at the orphanage for her impertinence, so when the charming Miss Hyacinth and her sister choose Maud to take home with them, the girl is as baffled as anyone. It seems the sisters need Maud to help stage elaborate séances for bereaved, wealthy patrons. As Maud is drawn deeper into the deception, playing her role as a "secret child," she is torn between her need to please and her growing conscience - until a shocking betrayal makes clear just how heartless her so-called guardians are. Filled with tantalizing details of turn-of-the-century spiritualism and page-turning suspense, this lively historical novel features a winning heroine whom readers will not soon forget.

Author Notes

Laura Amy Schlitz is the writer of the 2008 Newbery Medal-winning Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from the Medieval Village and the 2013 Newbery Medal-winning Spendors and Glooms.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-8-Maud's life at an orphanage has been one of neglect and poverty. When the Hawthorne sisters appear out of nowhere and adopt the 11-year-old troublemaker, she vows to be obedient. Distracted by unfamiliar pleasures such as new clothes, ice cream, and indoor plumbing, she doesn't worry too much about the sisters' insistence that her presence in their home be kept hidden. Well cared for but bored, she finds a way to communicate with Muffet, a deaf serving woman, and the two develop a close relationship. Mysteries abound, and Maud soon discovers the family secret-the Hawthorne sisters make their living by conducting fraudulent s?ances and they need Maud to play the part of a girl's ghost to deceive a grieving mother. Wanting to earn her guardians' affections, Maud is drawn further and further into the scheme despite her growing qualms of conscience. Only after a betrayal and a tragedy does she finally find the loving home for which she longs. Filled with heavy atmosphere and suspense, this story re-creates life in early-20th-century New England and showcases the plight of orphans. Maud is a charismatic, three-dimensional character who is torn between doing the right thing and putting her own needs first. While much of the plot is predictable, particularly the ending, the book will find an audience with fans of gothic tales.-Melissa Moore, Union University Library, Jackson, TN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Horn Book Review

(Intermediate) In the taxonomy of the Barbary Asylum for Female Orphans, Maud ""knew quite well that she was plain, clever, and bad,"" but she achieves an orphan's dream when pretty, sympathetic Hyacinth Hawthorne brings her home. The discovery that the maiden Hawthorne sisters expect Maud to live as a ""secret child"" and help them with sham seances for wealthy bereaved individuals does nothing to dampen Maud's devotion to her charismatic guardian, who wants Maud to impersonate eight-year-old Caroline Lambert. Caroline drowned at the summer resort of Cape Calypso, and her mother is offering five thousand dollars to any medium producing a genuine manifestation of her daughter. Schlitz realizes both characters and setting (an early twentieth-century seaside town) with unerring facility, generating the ""melodrama"" of the title from Maud's hunger for a mother-figure and supplying several other contenders besides the selfish Hyacinth, including a deaf housekeeper, Muffet, and Mrs. Lambert herself, whose grief causes Maud a few pangs of conscience. The culmination of the fraudulent seances-Maud's appearance as the ghostly Caroline-neatly precedes the climactic episode in which Maud faces the inescapable truth about who cares for her and who doesn't, bringing this orphan story full circle before ending on a resounding note of triumph. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

In this fast-paced story set in 1909, three seemingly caring elderly sisters adopt feisty, orphaned 11-year-old Maud Flynn. She soon discovers that they're spiritualistic con artists who value their "secret child" only because her shortness and singing talents help them dupe wealthy bereaved clients in ever-more-elaborate shams. Ironically, intelligent and resourceful Maud unwittingly turns out to possess some apparently real powers. Schlitz's well-written narrative depicts the period's craze for spiritualism and captures melodrama at its best with an orphan; shockingly villainous, heartless characters; a happy ending and some supernatural touches. Readers will get caught up in Maud's plight and keep reading to see if she can extricate herself and to learn about the genuinely fascinating details of the fakery. However, melodrama implies certain negatives, such as a predictable, too-good-to-be-true ending and some all-black or all-white characters. Overall, an interesting, brisk read, but it will be up to readers to decide how much of this they buy. (Fiction. 10-14) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Set in the early twentieth century, this first novel tells the classic foundling story with mounting melodrama and multiple twists and turns. Eleven-year-old Maud is always in trouble in the orphan asylum, so she's delighted when she's adopted by the three elderly Hawthorne sisters. Suddenly she has the luxury of new clothes, running water, and good food. But why do the sisters hide her away? As it turns out, they want her to play the role of a drowned child in mock seances to trick their rich, bereaved clients. But smart, brave Maud rebels, bonds with the sisters' deaf housekeeper, and, eventually, finds a loving family elsewhere. The narrative goes on too long, and the seance secret is revealed too early, but the details and the surprising turnarounds will keep readers hooked. They'll enjoy the situation of the brave young rebel who spies on the powerful adults she depends on. --Hazel Rochman Copyright 2006 Booklist