Playmaker [NOOK Book]


The year is 1597. Elizabeth is queen. Shakespeare and the Lord Chamberlain’s Men are packing London’s Globe Theatre. And the severed heads of Catholic insurgents are impaled on the Tower’s gates. One 14-year-old boy should arouse no one’s interest.

But within a week of his arrival, Richard Malory is robbed, beaten, and threatened at knifepoint. Someone wants him to leave London, and Richard is determined to find out why. There’s only one ...
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The year is 1597. Elizabeth is queen. Shakespeare and the Lord Chamberlain’s Men are packing London’s Globe Theatre. And the severed heads of Catholic insurgents are impaled on the Tower’s gates. One 14-year-old boy should arouse no one’s interest.

But within a week of his arrival, Richard Malory is robbed, beaten, and threatened at knifepoint. Someone wants him to leave London, and Richard is determined to find out why. There’s only one place he’ll be safe: as an actor on the stage. As he begins to unravel the traitorous plot that has ensnared him, Richard must make a difficult decision. Will he play the part set out for him—or can he become the playmaker of his own life?

From the Trade Paperback edition.

While working as an apprentice in a London theater company in 1597, fourteen-year-old Richard uncovers a mystery involving the disappearance of his father and a traitorous plot to overthow Queen Elizabeth.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A strong foundation in Elizabethan politics and religious conflicts will benefit those wading through the murky waters of this cloak-and-dagger mystery set in London in 1597. Young Richard Malory, who has recently lost his mother, seeks his fortune and hopes to find information about his father's disappearance years ago. After suffering some mishaps on the dangerous city streets, Richard secures a position with an acting troupe and works alongside such notable figures as Richard Burbage, Ben Jonson and William Shakespeare. The protagonist gains a sense of purpose and family as an actor's apprentice, but his contentment is undercut by concerns about his father, who may have been a traitor, and by mysterious strangers, who seem to be watching Richard's every move. Containing as many incidences of mistaken identities, treachery and bloodshed as the plays of the period, this first novel approximates the mood of the Elizabethan era, but its atmosphere feels thin when compared to Susan Cooper's recent King of Shadows, set against a similar backdrop. The convoluted plot and tangled relationships among characters may leave readers more befuddled than intrigued. Ages 10-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Children's Literature
His mother dead a week and his father long since disappeared, fourteen-year-old Richard Malory arrives in 1597 London's jostling streets and finds work with wine merchants, Motheby and Southern. But Richard's co-workers are as brutal as the work, and a girl named Starling, who has been watching him on the docks, suggests he audition for the Lord Chamberlain's players, the very same troupe Shakespeare writes for. Through Richard's eyes and ears we follow the action-packed story of his search for his father, his struggle to become an actor, the violence of Papist plots against the Queen, and Richard's burgeoning relationship with Starling. The vital life of Elizabethan times is fully present, from the gang-infested streets to the court, to churches, offices, and theater itself--not the Globe, which wasn't built for several years¾a helpful endnote informs us. With such an excellent book at hand, it is a pity that the stingy margins and heavy type belie the book's generosity of theme and character. But never mind. This notable first novel will be enjoyed for years by children and adults. It would be surprising if The Playmaker was not nominated for several literary awards. 2000, Knopf,
After his mother dies, fourteen-year-old Richard heads for London in hopes of finding a new life and possibly his father, who disappeared years ago. He lands smack in the middle of traitorous plans to overthrow Queen Elizabeth and restore Catholics to power. Misunderstandings and death threats lead Richard to a position with Lord Chamberlain's Men—a popular acting troupe performing Will Shakespeare's contemporary work. Richard surprises himself with a real knack for acting—previously considered "of the devil," thanks to mother's puritanical leanings—but he wrestles with whether to continue on stage. In the end, Richard earns a solid position with the company, finds his father, and witnesses the beheading of the traitors with whom he was accidentally involved. Of the three plot lines—the search for father, political unrest, and Shakespearean theater—the theater is by far the most engaging. The competition and camaraderie between the actors is delightful, and the behind-the-scenes details of theater production add to the interest. Richard's inner conflict between theater and real life is also a strength. Unfortunately, the other plots are convoluted, with too many characters and confusing action sequences. Older teens acquainted with England's political history still might be lost in the unnecessary characters and street fights that play awkwardly between performances. Nonetheless, readers interested in Elizabethan-era Britain and fans of the film Shakespeare in Love will enjoy the story. Classroom use might pair this novel with others such as Susan Cooper's King of Shadows (McElderry/S & S, 1999/VOYA December 1999) or books in Gary Blackwood's Shakespeare Stealerseries (Dutton, 1998+). VOYA CODES: 2Q 2P M J (Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2000, Knopf, 307p, . Ages 12 to 15. Reviewer: Elaine McGuire SOURCE: VOYA, April 2001 (Vol. 24, No.1)
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Richard Malory is on his own with no home or income in late Elizabethan England. On her deathbed, the teen's mother told him to head for London in search of the attorney who, years earlier, sent the family money following the mysterious disappearance of Mr. Malory. On reaching the capital, Richard is caught in the intrigues of two different worlds. His melodious speaking voice and fine handwriting, plus the influence of a new friend, get him a job with the Lord Chamberlain's Men. This proves to be a competitive, sometimes hostile world for a neophyte and certainly an uncomfortable situation for a person with Richard's Puritan background. More dangerous, however, are the strangers who seem set on drawing Richard into political/religious plots rife throughout the city, and who may know secrets concerning his missing father. Twists and turns will keep readers in suspense throughout the tale while the exciting climax will bring some answers and unexpected connections. Informed by solid historical and literary scholarship, this well-written adventure novel is a winner. Be sure to share it with readers of Susan Cooper's King of Shadows (S & S, 1999) and Gary Blackwood's The Shakespeare Stealer (Dutton, 1998).-Starr E. Smith, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307559111
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 1/16/2009
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 320
  • Age range: 10 years
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

J. B. Cheaney first fell under the Bard’s spell when she and her sister wrote an adaptation of Julius Caesar and performed it in their backyard. Many years later, J. B. Cheaney’s interests in literature and theater have
come together again in The Playmaker, her first novel.

From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Read an Excerpt

The City

Smithfield once blazed with burning martyrs.

An English boy of any education whatever knows that. During the days of Bloody Queen Mary, who hoped to restore a Catholic kingdom on our island, Protestants were burned by the dozens on stakes erected in Smithfield market, just outside the walls of London.

Of course, Mary had been dead these forty years and England was safely delivered from the Pope's clutches by our gracious Queen, Elizabeth. But Smithfield surprised me nonetheless. From childhood I had devoured Foxe's Book of Martyrs, with its bloody tales of the tortures inflicted on Protestants in this very place--I expected it to be grim or solemn. But when I topped the rise near the Red Bull tavern, a lively scene leapt into view--a clash of color and sound that appeared to jump up and down and wave like a flag under the clear April sky. It took my breath away. For a moment I stared, my heart pounding in my ears. Then I shifted my pack from one weary shoulder to the other and pressed on, with the sensation of plunging into turbulent waves.

My progress slowed as the crowd thickened and vendors pushed their wares at me: goodwives offering apples and sausages, noisy apprentices hawking every sort of useless trinket, a fishmonger who all but hit me over the head with a flounder. I hesitated before a pastry seller, moved on a few steps, drifted back, and finally laid out a half-pence from my carefully guarded hoard for a small meat pie. The seller would swear only that it was meat, and would not say what kind, but my hunger was such that I gobbled half of it straightaway, then wrapped the rest in my handkerchief. I had learned to stretch food as long as possible and besides, half was all I could hold. Five days of eating catch-as-catch-can on the road had shrunk my stomach to the size of a fist.

"The mighty Benjamin! A farthing will make him dance, good folk, only a farthing!" A lean man in leather made this cry in a hoarse voice as he twirled a red stick over his head. Looming shadow-like behind him stood the biggest bear I had ever seen, tied to a stout pole set in the ground. I stopped to gawk at him as a nursemaid with two squealing children in tow handed a farthing to his keeper. Then the beast turned his head my way.

His eyes caught and held me. A bear's eyes are black and tiny as beads, or so they appear in the vastness of a round, furry face. With his frayed leather collar attached to the chain that secured him, this one appeared more comical than dangerous: a grand-father of bears with dark brown fur silvered at the tips. As his keeper tapped the ground with the red stick, Benjamin shuffled through a lumbering dance, drawing a circle of onlookers. Once the performance ended, he took the nuts and crusts thrown to him with lordly indifference. But to me, he smiled.

Or perhaps the smile was only a fancy, for the moment I imagined seeing it, it was gone. But one thing sure: in the commotion of Smithfield market, in the shrill of vendors and din of penned-up livestock, it was me the beast sought out. The glint in those buttony eyes drew me in, and I was hardly aware of my own feet until I stood scarcely a yard from him. Then, quickly and without malice, he lifted a heavy paw and raked the knitted cap off my head. I felt the force behind that blow, and knew that only a slight shift in aim could have taken off my face. A rude laugh went up from the onlookers roundabout.

"Nah, nah, young master," said the keeper, easing me back with his stick, "Mind ye no' step too close. 'E's fiercer than 'e looks, aye, Benjamin? Give yon lad his covering back."

The bear had set my cap on his own head, to the vast amusement of the crowd. My face burned, for I realized I had been cozened into the show.

"Here, Benjamin." The laughter died as my voice rang out, steady as nerves alone could make it. A quarter of the meat pie trembled in my outstretched palm; his nose twitched as the smell reached it. "Swap my cap for what's of more use to you, and let us be friends."

The offer met with approval, both from the bear and the onlookers. "There's a bold lad," ran the general refrain, while Benjamin gently cadged the morsel in his cracked yellow claws and suffered the cap to be lifted off his head by his keeper's stick. The man renewed his cries in praise of "The mighty Benjamin! A farthing will make him dance. . . ." I adjusted my pack again and gave the bear a last look. But his eyes were restless, already seeking out another cap to lift from an unwary head.

Directly before me loomed the thick gray walls of the city and the towering arch of Newgate. A stony chill fell upon me as I passed through the gate, trailing its long finger down my back as I moved out of its shadow. Then I stepped into a broad swathe of sunlight and blinked with amazement, overcome for the moment. I had arrived: this color, this clamor, this dust, stink, and roar, was London.

As I gazed around me like an idiot, a hard object struck the side of my head and bounced on the cobbled street. It was a piece of biscuit, as hard as any stone. "Ahoy, green lad!" called a coarse voice above my head. I glanced up to a row of narrow, barred windows, where a hand on a hairy forearm was waving. I could scarcely make out a face in the shadows. "You want a job?" Immediately the neighboring windows thronged with the thieves and ruffians of Newgate Prison, beseeching me to fetch them nuts and cheese and pints of ale, jeering when I shook my head and backed away. "Watch your feet, boy," shouted one, "or we'll look to see you here with us!"

Such warnings were wasted on me. Though poor, I was well brought up and incorrigibly honest. Or so I thought at the time.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2002

    This is a great book!

    This is a great book for mystery lovers every whare.Go to your locle library and check out this book. Follow Richard Malory threw the good times and the bad. Whith many twists and turns you whont expect, this book is very mind bogiling. This book will definetly keep you on the edge of your seet. One thing I have to say is, if you don't like long chapters or long books themselves, this isn't the book for you. but size doesn't matter for me. Thats why I give this book a 5 out of 5.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 25, 2010


    Reading 4

    The Playmaker
    J.B. Cheaney

    The Playmaker, by J.B. Cheany, was a very well written book. I think it deserves four stars. After every chapter up to the middle of the book, I immediately had to stop to review what I had just read. To me the beginning was a little hard to interpret, so I couldn't say it was the best start for a book. The dialogue was also hard to understand because of the old English style. But this book was exciting in some parts, like when Richard met Starling and when the judges determined him worthy to be an actor. But when I started to read the middle of the book, it really grabbed me. Everything sped up to a pace I personally like. It became very exciting and fast paced as more mysteries and plans were unraveled. It became easier to read, though that could be because I became more willing to pick up the book. And at the end of each chapter I stopped not to review everything I read, but to think about everything exciting that happened in the chapter and how it may relate to the future of the story. All in all The Playmaker by J.B. Cheany is what I would call a four star book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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