A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this Shakespearian-themed novel is the third in a series. Readers will learn about the rigors of writing a play, as well as the politics of the period. Anti-Catholic actions by the government and individuals figure into the plot, and anti-Jewish sentiment in Elizabethan London is mentioned. Readers will be pleased to find an author's note, which separates fact from fiction.
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What's the story?
Widge, an orphan boy taken in as an apprentice by the Lord Chamberlain's Men, Shakespeare's theater company, has a new set of problems: he's got a huge crush on Shakespeare's headstrong daughter, Judith, he's trying to write a play to impress her, properties belonging to the company are being stolen, there's a spy in the company, their patron, his friend Julia, is in trouble in France, the Queen is ailing, and more. Includes author's note, which separates fact from fiction.
Is it any good?
The first two books in this series were Elizabethan larks, full of action, swordplay, and theatrical business; unfortunately, the first half of this one drags. Widge moons interminably over Judith, a shallow, spoiled, and annoying girl whose appeal to the otherwise sensible Widge is mystifying. Once Judith finally departs, and Widge gets involved in plots to help the company, Julia, her father, and others, the story picks up, and those young readers who have made it this far will finally find the enjoyable story they were expecting. A wealth of period detail, political machinations, back alleys of London, and information about playwriting add to the interest and educational value.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about historical fiction. Why is it interesting? Are you more likely to remember things that you read in a story like this one, or in history books that strictly teach facts? Do you ever get confused by what's real or not? Why is it important to learn about things that happened long ago?
Shakespearian stories continue to be popular today -- and read in school. Why do you think that is? On this page, you can check out the list of Shakespearian spinoffs that the Bard's work has inspired. Do any of those titles interest you? Why do you think modern writers like to play with his work?
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