Shakespeare's Spy

Common Sense Media says

Shakespearean adventure is accessible for tweens.





What parents need to know

Educational value

A wealth of period detail, political machinations, back alleys of
London, and information about playwriting add to the interest and
educational value. Includes author's note, which separates fact from fiction.

Positive messages

Underneath the Shakespearian theme and all the intrigue there is a coming-age-story about a brave boy.

Positive role models

Widge is a relatable character (he even has a crush on a headstrong girl) -- and he tries to do what he can to help the company. In the end, he comes into a new identity.


A punch in the stomach.


Mentioned without description or explanation: selling favors, forced attentions, illegitimate child, and affairs. Widge has a huge crush on Shakespeare's headstrong daughter, Judith.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Drinking is mentioned.

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.

Parents say

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Kids say

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. But the first half of this one drags as 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.

Families can talk 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?

Book details

Author:Gary Blackwood
Genre:Historical Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Dutton Children's Books
Publication date:January 11, 2004
Number of pages:281
Publisher's recommended age(s):10 - 14

This review of Shakespeare's Spy was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 16 years old Written bylupasalbus99 November 1, 2012

The above review is unfair.

The review for this was completely unfair. This book does not contain any sexual content. Do not listen to the review above this! It isn't any good. I read this book about four times, and it is a really good book. Highly recommended.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 12 years old April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age


This book has a wonderful beginning and end. I have read every book in this seires and loved them all.


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