I picked up THE SHAKESPEARE STEALER, because I just read Blackwood’s CURIOSITY and was hankering for more from this author.
I’ve seen this book recommended numerous times, and I can’t say why I didn’t pick it up. I think it was the title and premise. I didn’t know if I could hang out with a character with a goal of stealing a beloved Shakespeare play.
But the great thing about THE SHAKESPEARE STEALER is that Widge grows into a character with nobler goals. And that, my friends, is worth the read.
Widge is an orphan with a rare talent for shorthand. His fearsome master has just one demand: steal Shakespeare's play "Hamlet"--or else. Widge has no choice but to follow orders, so he works his way into the heart of the Globe Theatre, where Shakespeare's players perform. As full of twists and turns as a London alleyway, this entertaining novel is rich in period details, colorful characters, villainy, and drama.
What I loved about this book:
- Historical authenticity: Widge's language, thoughts, and actions are always authentically Elizabethan. He never comes across as a modern character trying to survive in the past, which I sometimes encounter in historical kidlit.
- Character dialogue/language: One thing I really enjoyed about this book was how Widge spoke in a different dialect than some of the other characters. They make fun of him for saying “aye” and “nay” and other colloquiums. Widge's ongoing attempt to speak like a Londoner was a fun mini-plot within the story.
- Character Arc: Widge is sympathetic at first because he’s been put down and misused by others. Even the goal of stealing the play is forced upon him. But the beauty of this story is how he comes to realize that he does have a choice.
- Subplots that add to the main plot: I loved how Blackwood used another character who was struggling with similar issues to Widge as a comparison/contrast. If you’re a writer looking to study how subplots can support the main story, study how Blackwood uses Julian/Julia’s story.
- An interesting villain: Falconer is one of the most memorable villains I’ve read in kidlit. I love that he’s menacing, and yet, somehow, relatable. The reveal at the end was fitting and didn’t diminish the story.I’d recommend this to readers who enjoy gritty and fast-paced historical fiction and enjoy authors like Avi (THE TRAITOR’S GATE) and Karen Cushman (WILL SPARROW’S ROAd others).Have you read any good historical fiction lately?
If you're looking for Marvelous Middle Grade suggestions, check out Shannon Messenger's blog.