Gypsy Rizka

Gypsy Rizka

by Lloyd Alexander
Hardcover, 195 pages
Current Retail Price: $16.99
Used Price: $6.40 (2 in stock) Condition Policy

From Publishers Weekly

"Skinny as a smoked herring; long-shanked, bright-eyed, with cheekbones sharp enough to whittle a stick," the half-Gypsy girl Rizka lives with her impudent cat, Petzel, in a dilapidated caravan just outside the town of Greater Dunitsa. On her own since her mother died, Rizka awaits the day when her Gypsy father will return to sweep her off with him to the traveling life. In the meantime, the sharp-witted urchin keeps busy deflating the pretensions of the town's most complacent burghersAand being a true friend to those few who appreciate her worth. Rich with comic exaggeration and the folksy cadences of a tall tale, Rizka's sassy escapades include outwitting the town's narrow-minded Chief Councillor Sharpnack, furthering two local romances, impersonating Greater Dunitsa's resident ghost and sharing the wonders of Ali Baba's cave with the dreamy, book-loving town clerk. The narrative brings to mind the author's lighthearted Vesper Holly books rather than his more serious-minded Westmark trilogy; a sweetly poignant conclusion draws together the various episodes while making a gentle point about the importance of family, home and friendship. Ages 8-12.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-8-Master storyteller Alexander has another winner in this story of Rizka, a young Gypsy living alone in her wagon on the outskirts of Greater Dunitsa while awaiting the return of her father. Her irrepressible and quick-witted style of helping the townspeople exposes their ridiculous foibles as she tricks them with ruses that create hilarious situations yet turn out for the best. Rizka has her finger in everything: runaway lovers; floods; magical caves; and the dreaded Zipple, a relentless breeze that drives the citizens a little crazy. While she evokes either adoration or aggravation in the town, at the book's conclusion, when the Gypsies finally return but with news of her father's death, Rizka learns the real meaning of family and community. Much in the novel is familiar in structure, characterization, style, and theme to previous works by Alexander: an imaginary land; an array of wonderfully exaggerated characters; events as a series of comic twists and turns; and humor that is farcical, satirical, tongue-in-cheek, and often derived from playing on words. But what is most quintessential Alexander is the creation of a strong heroine adept at triumphing by her wits. What is less familiar here is the plot. Gypsy Rizka reads like a series of vignettes, driven less by a strong story and a thematic wrestle between good and evil than earlier novels. Rizka is cut from the same cloth as the bright and brassy Mickle from the "Westmark" trilogy and the plucky star of the five titles in the "Vesper Holly" series. Fans will be delighted.
Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

This tome from Alexander (The Iron Ring, 1997, etc.) showcases all the elements of a farce as mayors and councilmen, gypsies and ragamuffins supplant kings and princes, warriors and magic cats. Episodic chapters resemble short skits as the orphaned gypsy girl Rizka, with intentional but lighthearted mockery, merrily exposes the townspeople of Greater Dunitsa for all their quirks and quixotic notions. She is soothsayer, matchmaker, and healer rolled into one. With a glint in her eye and a trick up her sleeve, the quick-witted Rizka can make grown men cluck like chickens, believe in town hall ghosts, or stuff herring down their pants in an effort to grow smarter, all ``in the name of civic duty.'' For a stretch, the plot is more of the same, pitting Rizka against the evil Chief Councilor Sharpnack, who seeks only to rid the town of the ``pestilential Gypsy vixen'' and her impudent cat Petzel, ``the only blot(s) on the town's reputation.'' In a series of ``carefully managed coincidences,'' snowballing plot elements land many of the bumbling government officials in their own jail. All comes right again, for as Rizka has wound her way into the lives of the townspeople, she has also found her way into their hearts. Alexander has a flair for finding the comedic in his pageant of characters, while his chain of absurdities reveals a truth or two about the human condition along the way. (Fiction. 10-14) -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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