Title: The Kingdom of Little Wounds
Author: Susann Cokal
Publication Date: 2013
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Number of Pages: 541
Awards: Prinz Honor
Genre/Subgenre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy
A kingdom on the brink of disease and disaster with only a seamstress to change history.
After the heartbreaking loss of her fiance and unborn child, Ava Bingen gains a position as a seamstress for the Scandinavian royal family. After accidentally injuring the queen during a fitting, Ava losses her job and is only allowed to remain in the castle if she agrees to spy for one of the king’s trusted advisors. She is placed in a new position as a nursery maid, caring for the royal children who suffer from a mysterious ailment. When the royal children begin to die one by one, the kingdom becomes astir with rumors of political plots, poison, and murder. Ava rises to prominence when she tells a tale that turns out to be true – that one of the queen’s closest companions is making the children sicker with too much medicine. During her time in the nursery, Ava forms complicated relationships – with the castle historian, with another nursemaid who was previously a kidnapped slave, and with the queen herself. As more deaths occur among the royal family, Ava must decide where her loyalties lie and what she is willing to do to survive.
The Kingdom of Little Wounds is a compelling read – a richly-woven story with a dark mystery and compelling characters. It is very well-written and despite being dense is never dull. However, I question whether it should be categorized as a young adult novel. Much of the subject matter (including sexual violence, childbirth, death, and sexual diseases) and language are mature and I believe inappropriate for a non-adult reader. These topics are written about very graphically, and I would be very hesitant about recommending this novel to teen readers.
Why I Chose the Book:
I found the story of a kingdom trapped in disease and rife with political strife and power grabs to be very interesting.
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Book Talk Ideas
This novel is loosely based on 16th century Scandinavia. Programming for this novel might include a presentation on 16th century Scandinavia (social classes, the monarchy, politics, religion, culture, etc) for a classroom or a display of books on Scandinavian history and culture for a library.
1. The Kingdom of Little Wounds is an interesting mix of genres, combining historical fiction and fantasy. What are some examples from the novel of each of these genre’s characteristics?
2. Compare and contrast Ava and Midi, both of whom rise from humble beginnings to be essential to the royal family.
3. Throughout the novel, characters believe that they are being haunted by the dead princesses. Because this novel is part fantasy, this could be correct. Do you think the characters are being haunted, or do you think this is a symptom of the insanity of these characters?
Cokal, S. (2013). The Kingdom of Little Wounds. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
Goodreads (2014). The Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal. Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17316589-the-kingdom-of-little-wounds
“The Kingdom of Little Wounds.” NoveList K-8. EBSCO, 2014. Web. 14 Apr. 2014. <http://0-web.b.ebscohost.com.catalog.sjlibrary.org/novpk8/detail?vid=3&sid=c1a316d5-fdbf-4409-87e2-319e85b0df92%40sessionmgr111&hid=112&bdata=JnNpdGU9bm92cGs4LWxpdmU%3d#db=njh&UI=10232673>.
Susann Cokal (2014). The Kingdom of Little Wounds. Retrieved from http://www.susanncokal.net/#!the-kingdom-of-little-wounds/c168v