THE SHAKESPEARE STEALER

This latest from Blackwood (Beyond the Door, 1991) is a delightful and heartwarming romp through Elizabethan England. Narrator Widge, 14, resigned to leading the unremarkable life of an orphan, is bought by the self-serving Dr. Bright to learn his new “charactery” (shorthand), and become his secretary. Although Widge applies himself, Dr. Bright is nevertheless willing to sell the boy, for a mere ten pounds, to Simon Bass, a theatrical manager. He sends Widge to London, so that he can copy down the new play, The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, and enable Bass to perform it without paying royalties. Once within the confines of the Globe Theater, however, Widge discovers a brave new world of friendship, fun, and backstage intrigue. Welcomed into the company as an aspiring apprentice, Widge is soon learning lines, practicing sword-fighting, and avoiding Bass’s henchman. The Bard himself makes a cameo appearance, as do other famous members of the company. To his credit, Blackwood limns just how Widge, who has no theatrical aspirations, proves a talented and hard-working member of the troupe. Readers will find much to like in Widge, and plenty to enjoy in this gleeful romp through olde England. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-525-45863-8

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1998

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THE BIG GAME OF EVERYTHING

Twelve-year-old Onion Jock’s grandfather made a fortune inventing a golf-course–cleaning contraption and now runs his own 13-hole course, his barber father rebels against the system by discouraging haircuts and his brother is a finance-obsessed pugilist. When well-monied individuals from Grampus’s past arrive, Jock realizes that his odd family relationships are more twisted than he thought. With little more than a brogue pronunciation as a clue, readers are left to guess at Jock’s geographical location, which creates a rarely bridged emotional gap. Jock’s narrative disposition is reminiscent of Christopher from Mark Haddon’s Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (2003), but Jock’s own behavioral discrepancies have no apparent underlying causes. Moments of genuine humor shine, but most of the tale’s message—of the burden of possessions—seems better suited for a younger audience than the one it apparently aims for. Andi Watson’s Clubbing (2007) blends oddball humor and golf much more successfully. This uneven mixture of relationships and sports is a bogey for the usually reliable Lynch. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-074034-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2008

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Fluid prose elucidates a life much stranger than fiction.

PROMISE THE NIGHT

MacColl's second novel brings to life the childhood of future aviator and writer Beryl Markham (Prisoners in the Palace, 2010).

Born Beryl Clutterbuck, she moved with her family to the highlands of Kenya as a toddler. Not long after, her mother and brother returned to England, abandoning her with her rough though loving father. MacColl's account begins when a leopard steals into Beryl's hut and attacks her dog—the child leaping from her bed to give chase. Though she loses the leopard in the night, the next morning, she and her new friend, a Nandi boy, Kibii, find the dog still alive and save it. Later she insists on being part of the hunt for the leopard. Young Beryl wants nothing more than to be a warrior, a murani, and to be able to leap higher than her own head. Her jumping skills progress apace, but young white girls, no matter how determined, cannot become part of the Nandi tribe. Her relationship with Kibii's father, the wise Arap Maina, along with a growing awareness of the consequences of her actions, help lead her into a more mature—though still wildly impulsive and daring—life. MacColl intersperses her third-person narrative with faux news reports and first-person diary entries of two decades later, when Beryl Markham became the first person—let alone woman—to fly a plane west from Europe to America.

Fluid prose elucidates a life much stranger than fiction. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8118-7625-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Chronicle

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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