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Every bit as brawling and vigorous as its prequel, The Shakespeare Stealer (1998), this takes young Widge, apprentice actor, on tour with Shakespeare’s own Chamberlain’s Men, to meet challenges to life and livelihood while unearthing clues to his hidden past. After the threat of plague closes London’s theaters, the company sets off to play smaller towns, leaving Widge’s friend Sander behind but hiring malicious, talented Salathiel Pavy away from another troupe to help portray the women and children. One by one, Sal begins taking over roles that once were Widge’s: welcome relief, at first, as Widge has plenty of other duties, including taking dictation for Will, who has broken an arm in the midst of composing a play tentatively titled Love’s Labours Won, to present to the Queen. Soon, however, an unfriendly rivalry develops between the two apprentices. Then, Widge gets a double shock: revisiting the orphanage where he spent his first few years, he learns his mother’s name, and ex-soldier Jamie Redshaw steps forward, claiming to be his father. Mixing swordplay and wordplay measure for measure—“ ‘He may vote as he will . . . for the will of the company outweighs the will of Will, will he or nil he . . . And the weal of the company . . . outweighs the weal of Will as well.’ ” Blackwood creates a vivid picture of the times, as the company encounters brigands, widespread fear of the plague, and internal dissension. When Redshaw is revealed as the Elizabethan equivalent of a con-man, Widge is forced to make some agonizing choices; he returns to London alone, just in time to see Sander die of plague. Then, screwing his courage to the sticking place, he challenges Sal to an actors’ duel, to see who would make the better Helena in the new play, now dubbed All’s Well That Ends Well. A first-rate tale, with a strong cast and plenty of insight into stagecraft and the art of acting. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-525-46444-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2000

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Paulsen recalls personal experiences that he incorporated into Hatchet (1987) and its three sequels, from savage attacks by moose and mosquitoes to watching helplessly as a heart-attack victim dies. As usual, his real adventures are every bit as vivid and hair-raising as those in his fiction, and he relates them with relish—discoursing on “The Fine Art of Wilderness Nutrition,” for instance: “Something that you would never consider eating, something completely repulsive and ugly and disgusting, something so gross it would make you vomit just looking at it, becomes absolutely delicious if you’re starving.” Specific examples follow, to prove that he knows whereof he writes. The author adds incidents from his Iditarod races, describes how he made, then learned to hunt with, bow and arrow, then closes with methods of cooking outdoors sans pots or pans. It’s a patchwork, but an entertaining one, and as likely to win him new fans as to answer questions from his old ones. (Autobiography. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-32650-5

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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Characteristically provocative gothic comedy, with sublime undertones. (Autobiographical fiction. 11-13)

An exhilarating summer marked by death, gore and fire sparks deep thoughts in a small-town lad not uncoincidentally named “Jack Gantos.”

The gore is all Jack’s, which to his continuing embarrassment “would spray out of my nose holes like dragon flames” whenever anything exciting or upsetting happens. And that would be on every other page, seemingly, as even though Jack’s feuding parents unite to ground him for the summer after several mishaps, he does get out. He mixes with the undertaker’s daughter, a band of Hell’s Angels out to exact fiery revenge for a member flattened in town by a truck and, especially, with arthritic neighbor Miss Volker, for whom he furnishes the “hired hands” that transcribe what becomes a series of impassioned obituaries for the local paper as elderly town residents suddenly begin passing on in rapid succession. Eventually the unusual body count draws the—justified, as it turns out—attention of the police. Ultimately, the obits and the many Landmark Books that Jack reads (this is 1962) in his hours of confinement all combine in his head to broaden his perspective about both history in general and the slow decline his own town is experiencing.

Characteristically provocative gothic comedy, with sublime undertones. (Autobiographical fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-37993-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

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