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The Shakespeare Stealer



A fresh look at Shakespeare for young readers.
Popular with kids

What parents need to know

Positive messages

A plucky orphan falls in love with acting in this swashbuckling adventure story. There are some mentions of Anti-Jewish sentiment in Elizabethan London, but on a whole this a fun, breezy read. 

Positive role models
Widge lies often, and plans to steal Shakespeare's work, but decides not to.

Swordplay leads to wounds, blood, and death.


It is mentioned that the married Shakespeare may be having an affair.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

An older teen drinks to excess on several occasions.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this book includes some swordplay that leads to wounds and death. There's also some teen drinking, lying, and a mention of an affair.

What's the story?

When orphaned Widge is apprenticed to Dr. Bright, he learns the doctor's method of shorthand and is bought by Simon Bass, who wants Widge to steal Shakespeare's newest play, Hamlet, by transcribing it secretly. Once inside the Globe Theater, Widge is enthralled by the play and taken in by the company as an apprentice. Soon Widge is torn by his fear of his master, his loyalty to the people who have treated him as a friend, and his growing desire to continue as an actor.

Is it any good?


What more could you want in an adventure: There's a plucky orphan, swashbuckling swordplay, Elizabethan theater, a girl posing as a boy, and a dastardly villain who's not what he seems. As a nice bonus, Gary Blackwood's THE SHAKESPEARE STEALER also illuminates an interesting problem: the stealing of plays in Elizabethan England. With its fast pace, unusual setting, and even more unusual crime, this has found a ready audience among the upper elementary and middle school set.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the ethical dilemma Widge is in: to risk his life or betray his new friends. With a little luck, children may want to know more about the Shakespearean plays mentioned here.

Book details

Author:Gary Blackwood
Genre:Historical Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Dutton Children's Books
Publication date:May 1, 1998
Number of pages:216
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12

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Kid, 10 years old April 9, 2008

The best book I have ever read!!!!

This book is about a boy named Widge, and he is an orphan. He gets sold to a man who wants him to steal the play of Hamlet by William Shakespeare. So Widge has to find a way to get the book without getting caught. He ends up doing some other tasks so he can get the book. This thriller book shows friendship, wisdom, and adventure. Does Widge decide to steal the book, or does he have a change of heart? You will have to read the book to find out.
Parent of a 6 and 8 year old Written bypeony April 9, 2008

Fun and interesting Shakespeare tie-in; some anti-Semitism depicted

Quite enjoyable. The Shakespeare tie-in is nicely done: not only with some language, and background of particular plays being performed, but even that the particular plays being performed relate to some degree to the themes of the book; for instance Hamlet (Widge has to decide what really matters to him, and what he really wants to do), and The Merchant of Venice (with some ambiguity about the "villain" of the story). But parents should be aware that some anti-Semitism is expressed (true to the time) by characters and never really challenged, and it's left rather ambiguous whether the villain of the book himself had some Jewish background. Especially with younger kids, this probably needs some discussion with parents. An older teen's excessive drinking is criticized. A "bad" character dies in a sword-fight; it's treated as a serious, sad event, not merely as a righteous "triumph".
Parent of a 12 year old Written bysuedeani January 4, 2010

Another side to Shakespeare

This book provides a wonderful back door entry in to the world of Shakespeare. It gives a realistic idea of what it was like to live during that period. It shows just how brutal poverty could be at that time and how a few good people could help set a child on the right path. It allows a perspective on Shakespeare that would otherwise be hard to acquire. It also gives another insight on plagiarism.
What other families should know
Educational value