Monday, October 12, 2020

A Wild Winter Swan by Gregory Maguire, a fairy-tale sequel set in 1960s NYC

New York at Christmastime can be an enchanting place. With his newest literary fantasy, a sort-of sequel to Hans Christian Andersen's “Wild Swans” fairy tale set in the 1960s, Maguire adds new facets of wonder to this locale. 

Raised by her stern Italian grandparents, Laura Ciardi is a lonely fifteen-year-old recently expelled after retaliating against a school bully. Her main company is their cook, the delightful Mary Bernice, and two friendly workmen repairing the family brownstone before a big holiday feast. 

There, Laura’s grandparents hope to entice their rich Irish brother-in-law into investing in her Nonno’s grocery, while Laura wants a guardian angel to rescue her from potential boarding school in Montreal. Appearing instead on the roof, one stormy night, is a dirty, bedraggled young man with a swan’s wing for an arm. 

Hilarity and awkwardness ensue as Laura tries to care for him and build him another wing without anyone noticing. Sensitive portraits of generational conflict and coming-of-age intertwine with whimsy as Maguire touchingly shows how people invoke stories to help elucidate their complicated world.

YA/General Interest: YAs will easily identify with Laura and her journey towards maturity while finding the fantasy elements intriguing.

A Wild Winter Swan was published last week by William Morrow/HarperCollins. I reviewed it for the 9/1/20 issue of Booklist (reprinted with permission). A number of Maguire's novels incorporate historical settings: Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister (17th-c Holland), Hiddensee (early 19th-c Germany), Mirror Mirror (16th-c Italy). It was a nice change to see an American setting used for this latest imaginative tale.


  1. This sounds good! It makes me remember Zilpha Keatley Snyder's "Black and Blue Magic", a children's book which also involves swan wings - such a great book and a good read-aloud.

  2. I haven't read that book of hers, but loved her Green Sky trilogy as a child.

  3. I read "The Egypt Game," "The Velvet Room" and "The Bronze Pen" also and enjoyed them - I imagine they've been weeded from our elementary library though.

  4. We have two of them in the teacher's center in my library, amazingly enough. We don't have Black and Blue Magic, though.