Cover image for At the sign of the star
At the sign of the star
Sturtevant, Katherine.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000.
Physical Description:
140 pages ; 22 cm
In seventeenth-century London, Meg, who has little interest in cooking, needlework, or other homemaking skills, dreams of becoming a bookseller and someday inheriting her widowed father's book store.
Reading Level:
860 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.6 5.0 43276.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 5.9 10 Quiz: 23383 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



The tale of a bookseller's daughter Meg Moore is the motherless and only child of a bookseller with a thriving business in Restoration London-and that makes her an heiress. She knows that someday she will have her pick of suitors, and that with the right husband she can continue in the book trade and be friends with wits and authors, as her father is. But Mr. Moore's unexpected marriage throws all Meg's dreams into confusion. Meg resists the overtures and edicts of her stepmother with a cleverness equaled only by her fierceness, but in spite of it all her rival's belly soon swells with what Meg fears will be her father's new heir. Meg seeks wisdom from almanacs and astrologers, plays and books of jests, guides for ladies and guides for midwives. Yet it is through her own experience that she finds a new matrimony with which to face her unknown future. This vibrant novel recreates a lively and fascinating historical period when women claimed a new and more active role in London's literary scene.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 4^-8. Working in her widowed father's London bookshop in 1677, twelve-year-old Meg loves being on the fringe of the literary world and talking with her father and their customers about books. In addition, she feels secure knowing that the business she will inherit will give her the financial freedom to marry a man of her choosing. So when her father remarries, Meg finds the adjustment difficult. Not only must she now acknowledge that she will probably not inherit the bookshop, she must also accept her stepmother's tutelage in household skills and womanly decorum. Those lessons come hard to the quick-witted, rebellious child, who finds quiet, spiteful ways to needle her stepmother. Gradually, though, Meg comes to accept her new place in her old home and the inevitability of change itself. It's commonplace to find that the heroine in historical fiction is a strong-willed girl, reluctant to be bound by the conventions of a past society, but Meg seems less like a child transplanted from the late twentieth century than a product of her own times. In this novel, Sturtevant creates a vivid sense of a different culture through the vocabulary, speech patterns, and reactions of the characters, as well as the many details that make up the lively backdrop of seventeenth-century London. Readers will end the book hoping for a sequel to this engaging story, which is set in a period little visited in historical novels for young people. --Carolyn Phelan

Publisher's Weekly Review

Though her mother died four years ago, the heroine of this novel set in 1677 London feels fortunate indeed: her father is a bookseller and publisher, and she is his only heir. Thanks to her anticipated dowry, she will have an unusual degree of freedom: "I would not live my life like other women, bound to dreary husbands and household duties." With her love of books and her admiration of Restoration London's great wits, the hours Meg spends working in her father's shop bring great pleasure. But all this changes when Meg's father takes a new wife: not only is Meg's inheritance jeopardized by the possible birth of a half brother, she must also study the womanly arts she scorns at the side of her stepmother, Susannah. Refreshingly, Meg's struggle to come to terms with her altered situation never degenerates into a battle of one-dimensional tomboyish virtue against uncomprehending femininity. Though readers never lose sight of Meg's predicament, Susannah is gradually and convincingly revealed to be as sympathetic and as hardheaded as her stepdaughter. Avoiding simplistic devices, resolution is achieved through perseverance and genuine emotional growth. Admirers of historical fiction will relish Sturtevant's (A Mistress Moderately Fair, for adults) detailed depiction of life in the great city, including a trip to Vauxhall, a visit to the theater (where Aphra Behn's work is performed) and the simple errands that take Meg through the smoky, noisy and beguiling streets. Ages 10-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-Restoration London in the year 1677 comes alive through the eyes of 12-year-old Meg Moore, the motherless only child of a bookseller whose home and place of business is, as the title conveys, "at the sign of the Star." Meg's father publishes the works of playwright John Dryden, among others, and Meg enjoys being part of the literary world. She expects to one day inherit the business and marry well with such a dowry. However, her expectations are dashed by her father's remarriage to Susannah Beckwith. Meg is cruel and insulting to her stepmother, who quickly becomes pregnant with the heir she fears will steal her future. When Susannah asks the girl to care for her baby in the event that she (like Meg's mother) dies in childbirth, Meg remembers how she had loved a younger brother who died. Though she does lose her inheritance when Tobias is born, she eventually comes to realize that, while the future may be unknown, she has many options. Sturtevant paints a lively picture of the time and place, weaving information on such diverse topics as medical procedures, food, and wedding rituals. Each chapter bears the title of an actual book written during the late 17th century. Readers also learn about Aphra Behn, a successful woman playwright of the time, who becomes a role model for Meg. Good historical fiction with a strong female heroine set in a time and place not often portrayed in books for this audience.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.