New Boy

New Boy

by Tracy Chevalier

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Overview

New Boy by Tracy Chevalier

Tracy Chevalier brings Shakespeare’s harrowing drama of jealousy and revenge to a 1970s era elementary school playground. 

Arriving at his fifth school in as many years, diplomat’s son Osei Kokote knows he needs an ally if he is to survive his first day – so he’s lucky to hit it off with Dee, the most popular girl in school. But one student can’t stand to witness this budding relationship: Ian decides to destroy the friendship between the black boy and the golden girl. By the end of the day, the school and its key players – teachers and pupils alike – will never be the same again.
 
The tragedy of Othello is transposed to a 1970s suburban Washington schoolyard, where kids fall in and out of love with each other before lunchtime, and practice a casual racism picked up from their parents and teachers. Peeking over the shoulders of four 11 year olds – Osei, Dee, Ian, and his reluctant ‘girlfriend’ Mimi – Tracy Chevalier's powerful drama of friends torn apart by jealousy, bullying and betrayal will leave you reeling.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553447637
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 05/16/2017
Series: Hogarth Shakespeare Series
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 642,124
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

TRACY CHEVALIER is the New York Times bestselling author of eight previous novels, including Girl with a Pearl Earring, which has been translated into 39 languages and made into an Oscar-nominated film. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., she lives in London with her husband and son.

Hometown:

London, England

Date of Birth:

October 19, 1962

Place of Birth:

Washington, D.C.

Education:

B.A. in English, Oberlin College, 1984; M.A. in creative writing, University of East Anglia, 1994

Read an Excerpt

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***

Copyright © 2017 Tracy Chevalier

Dee noticed him before anyone else. She was glad of that, held on to it. It made her feel special to have him to herself for a few seconds, before the world around them skipped a beat and did not recover for the rest of the day.

The playground was busy before school. Enough children had arrived early that games of jacks and kickball and hopscotch had begun, to be abandoned when the bell rang. Dee herself had not been early—her mother had sent her upstairs to change her top for something looser, saying Dee had spilled egg on it, though Dee herself couldn’t see any yolk. She’d had to run part of the way to school, braids thumping against her back, until the stream of students heading the same direction reassured her she was not late. She had gotten to the playground with a minute to spare before the first bell rang.

There hadn’t been enough time to join her best friend Mimi jumping double dutch with the other girls, so instead Dee had headed to the playground entrance into the building, where Mr. Brabant was standing with other teachers, waiting for the class lines to form. Her teacher had a short, angled haircut that squared his head, and stood very straight. Someone told Dee he had fought in Vietnam. Dee was not the top student in class—that prize went to prim Patty—but she liked to please Mr. Brabant when she could, enough to make him notice her, though not enough to be called a teacher’s pet.

She took her place at the front of the line now, and looked around, her eyes on the double-dutch girls still jumping rope. Then she spotted him, a motionless presence by the merry-go-round. Four boys were spinning on it—Ian and Rod and two boys from fourth grade. They were going so fast that Dee was sure one of the teachers would stop them. Once a boy had been flung off and broken an arm. The two fourth graders looked scared, but could not control the merry-go-round, as Ian was expertly kicking the ground to keep up the speed.

The boy standing near the frenetic motion was not dressed like the other boys, casual in their jeans and T-shirts and sneakers. Instead he wore gray flared pants, a white short-sleeve shirt, and black shoes, like a uniform a private school student would wear. But it was his skin that stood out, its color reminding Dee of bears she’d seen at the zoo a few months before, on a school field trip. Though they were called black bears, their fur was actually deep brown, with a red- dish tint at the tips. They had mostly slept, or sniffed at the pile of grubs the keeper had dumped in the pen for them. Only when Rod threw a stick at the animals to impress Dee did one of the bears react, baring its yellow teeth and growling so that the children shrieked and laughed. Dee had not joined in, though; she had frowned at Rod and turned away.

The new boy was not watching the merry-go-round, but studying the L-shaped building. It was a typical suburban elementary school, built eight years before, and looked like two red-brick shoeboxes unimaginatively shoved together. When Dee had started kindergarten it still had a new building smell to it. Now, though, it was like a dress she had worn many times, with its tears and stains and marks where the hem had been let down. She knew every classroom, every stair- case, every handrail, every bathroom cubicle. She knew every foot of the playground too, as well as the younger students’ playground on the other side of the building. Dee had fallen off the swings, torn her tights on the slide, gotten stuck at the top of the jungle gym when she became too scared to climb down. Once she had declared one half of the playground Girl Town, and she and Mimi and Blanca and Jennifer had chased away any boy who dared to cross the line. She had hidden with others around the corner near the gym entrance, where teachers on duty couldn’t see them and they could try on lipstick and read comics and play spin the bottle. She had lived her life on the playground, laughed and cried and had crushes and formed friendships and made few enemies. It was her world, so familiar she took it for granted. In a month she would be leaving it for junior high.

Now someone new and different had entered the territory, and this made Dee look at the space anew and suddenly find it shabby, and herself an alien in it. Like him.

He was moving now. Not like a bear, with its bulky, lumbering gait. More like a wolf, or—Dee tried to think of dark animals—a panther, scaled up from house cats. Whatever he was thinking—probably about being the new boy in a playground full of strangers the opposite color from him—he padded toward the school doors where the teachers waited with the unconscious assuredness of someone who knows how his body works. Dee felt her chest tighten. She drew in a breath.

“Well, well,” Mr. Brabant remarked. “I think I hear drums.”

Miss Lode, the other sixth grade teacher standing next to him, tittered. “Where did Mrs. Duke say he’s from?”

“Guinea, I think. Or was it Nigeria? Africa, anyway.” “He’s yours, isn’t he? Better you than me.” Miss Lode smoothed her skirt and touched her earrings, per- haps to make sure they were still there. It was a nervous habit she repeated often. She kept her appearance neat, except for her short blond hair that puffed out in a curly bob. Today she wore a lime green skirt, a yellow blouse, and green disks clipped to her ears. Her shoes were also green, with low square heels. Dee and her friends loved discussing Miss Lode’s wardrobe. She was a young teacher but her clothes were nothing like her students’ pink and white T-shirts and bell-bottom jeans with flowers embroidered along the hems.

Mr. Brabant shrugged. “I don’t foresee problems.”

“No, of course not.” Miss Lode kept her wide blue eyes fixed on her colleague as if not wanting to miss any morsel of wisdom that might help her become a better teacher. “Do you think we should—well, say something to the students about him? About—I don’t know—about him being different? To encourage them to welcome him?”

Mr. Brabant snorted. “Take off your kid gloves, Diane. He doesn’t need special treatment just because he’s bl— a new boy.”

“No, but—No. Of course.” Miss Lode’s eyes turned watery. Mimi had told Dee that once or twice her teacher had actually cried in class. Behind her back her students called her Cry Baby Lody.

Mr. Brabant’s eyes came to rest on Dee waiting in front of him, and he cleared his throat. “Dee, go and round up the other girls.” He gestured at the double- dutch jumpers. “Tell them I’ll take away the ropes if they keep on skipping after the first bell rings.”

He was one of the few male teachers in the school, and though it shouldn’t have mattered, to Dee it made him the kind of teacher you always obeyed, the teacher you impressed if you could—the way she felt about her own father, whom she wanted to please when he came home from work.

She hurried over to the girls jumping double dutch; they were using two thick ropes that made a satisfying thwack on the concrete, and chanting as they turned. She hesitated a moment, for it was Blanca’s go. She was by far the best double-dutcher in school, jumping so nimbly as the ropes came around that she could go for minutes without getting tripped up. The other girls preferred chants that would require Blanca to call someone else into the ropes or send herself out. Blanca of course liked to stay in, and this morning had man- aged to get them to chant:

Ice cream soda, cherry on top

Tell me the name of your sweetheart!

Is it A, B, C, D . . .

If the jumper didn’t get caught on one of the letters, they went on to numbers up to twenty, then favorite colors. Blanca was going through the colors now, long black curls bouncing, feet nimble even though she was wearing platform sandals. Dee could never jump in such shoes; she preferred her white Converse sneakers, which she kept as clean as she could.

She went over to Mimi, who was turning the ropes. “This is the second set of colors she’s doing,” her friend muttered. “Show-off.”

“Mr. B said he’d take the ropes away if you don’t stop now,” Dee reported.

“Good.” Mimi let her hands drop and the ropes went slack at one end, while the other turner kept going for a few seconds. Blanca’s feet got caught in them.

“Why’d you stop?” she demanded, pouting. “I could’ve tripped! Besides, I had to get back to the alphabet so I could stop at C!”

Dee and Mimi rolled their eyes as they began coiling the ropes. Blanca was crazy about Casper, the most popular boy in the sixth grade. To be fair, he seemed crazy about her too, though they broke up on a regular basis.

Dee herself had always liked Casper. More than that: they shared an understanding that they had it easier than others, that they didn’t have to work so hard to keep friends or be respected. The year before, she had briefly wondered if she should have a crush on him, or even take it further and go with him. Casper had an appealing, open face and bright blue eyes that put you at ease. But, though it would have been natural to, she did not think of him in that way. He was more like a brother; they were engaged in similar activities, looking forward rather than at each other. It made more sense for Casper to be with someone messy and energetic like Blanca.

“Oh my God, who’s that?” Blanca cried. Though in class she said little, on the playground she was loud and unabashed.

Dee knew without looking that Blanca was referring to the new boy. “He’s from Nigeria,” she said casually, coiling the rope between her elbow and her hand.

“How do you know?” Mimi asked. “Teachers said.”

“A black boy at our school—I can’t believe it!”

“Shhh . . .” Dee tried to stifle Blanca, embarrassed that the boy might hear.

She and Mimi and Blanca headed toward the lines of children, the ropes under her arm. They were kept in Mr. Brabant’s room, and Dee was responsible for them—which she knew made Blanca jealous, as did her friendship with Mimi.

“Why do you like her so much when she’s so weird?” Blanca had said once.

“Mimi’s not weird,” Dee had defended her friend. “She’s . . . sensitive. She feels things.”

Blanca had shrugged and begun to sing “Crocodile Rock,” making clear the conversation was over. Three-somes were a tricky navigation: one person was always feeling left out.

A teacher must have told the new boy where to go, for he was now standing at the end of the line that had formed in front of Mr. Brabant. Blanca came to a dramatic halt, rocking back on her heels. “Now what do we do?” she cried.

Dee hesitated, then stepped up to stand behind him. Blanca joined her and whispered loudly, “Can you believe it? He’s in our class! I dare you to touch him.”

“Shut up!” Dee hissed, hoping he hadn’t heard. She studied his back. The new boy had the most beautifully shaped head, smooth and even and perfectly formed, like a clay pot turned on a potter’s wheel. Dee wanted to reach out and cup it in her hand. His hair was cut short, like a forest of trees dotted in tight clumps over the curves of a mountain—very different from the thick afros popular at the moment. Not that there were any afros around to look at. There were no black students at Dee’s school, or black residents in her neighborhood, though by 1974 Washington, DC had a large enough black population to be nicknamed Chocolate City. Sometimes when she went downtown with her family she saw black men and women with big afros; and on TV when she watched Soul Train at Mimi’s house, dancing to Earth, Wind and Fire or the Jackson Five. She didn’t ever see the show at home: her mother would never let her watch black people singing and dancing on T V. Dee had a crush on Jermaine Jackson, though it was his sly toothy smile she liked rather than his afro. All of her friends preferred little Michael, who seemed to Dee too obvious a choice. It would be like choosing the cutest boy in school to have a crush on, which was perhaps why she never thought of Casper that way—and why Blanca did. Blanca always went for the obvious.

“Dee, you will look after our new student today.” Mr. Brabant gestured at her from the head of the line. “Show him where the cafeteria is, the music room, the bathroom. Explain things when he doesn’t understand what is going on in class. All right?”

Blanca gasped and nudged Dee, who turned red and nodded. Why had Mr. Brabant chosen her? Was he punishing her for something? Dee never needed punishing. Her mother made sure of that.

Around her, classmates were giggling and whispering. “Where’d he come from?”

“The jungle!”

“Hoo-hoo-hoo . . . Ow, that hurt!” “Don’t be so immature.”

“Poor Dee, having to look after him!”

“Why’d Mr. B choose her? Usually a boy looks after a boy.”

“Maybe none of the boys would be willing to. I

wouldn’t.”

“I wouldn’t either!”

“Yeah, but Dee’s Mr. B’s pet—he knows she won’t say no.”

“Smart.”

“Wait a minute—does this mean that that boy is going to sit at our desks?”

“Ha ha! Poor Duncan, stuck with the new boy! Patty too.”

“I’ll move!”

“Mr. B won’t let you.” “I will.”

“Dream on, buddy boy.”

The new boy glanced behind him. His face was not wary and guarded as Dee would have expected, but open and welcoming. His eyes were black, glistening coins that regarded her with curiosity. He raised his eyebrows, widening his eyes further, and Dee felt a jolt course through her, similar to what she experienced once when she touched an electric fence for a dare.

She did not speak to him, but nodded. He returned the nod, then turned back so that he was facing for- ward again. They stood in line, quiet, embarrassed. Dee looked around to see if anyone was still watching them. Everyone was watching them. She settled her eyes on a house across the street from the school—Casper’s house, in fact—hoping they would all assume she had her mind on important things out in the wider world rather than on the boy in front of her, who seemed to vibrate with electricity.

Then she noticed the black woman standing on the other side of the chain-link fence surrounding the play- ground, a hand entwined in the wire mesh. Though short, she was made taller by a red and yellow patterned scarf wrapped like a towering turban around her head. She had on a long dress made of the same bright fabric. Over it she wore a gray winter coat—even though it was early May and warm. She was watching them.

“My mother thinks that I do not know how to be the new boy.”

Dee turned, amazed that he had spoken. In his place she wouldn’t have said a word. “Have you been a new boy before?”

“Yes. Three times in six years. This will be my fourth school.”

Dee had always lived in the same house, gone to the same school and had the same friends, and was accustomed to a comfortable familiarity underpinning everything she did. She couldn’t imagine being a new girl and not knowing everyone else—though in a few months when she moved from elementary school to junior high, she would know only a quarter of the students in her grade. While in many ways Dee had out- grown her school and was ready to move on to a new one, the thought of being surrounded by strangers sometimes made her stomach ache.

Across from them in the line for the other sixth grade class, Mimi was watching this exchange, wide- eyed. Dee and Mimi had almost always been in the same class together, and it pained Dee that, this last year of elementary school, they had been assigned different teachers, so she couldn’t be with her best friend all day but had to settle for playground time. It also meant Blanca, who was in Dee’s class, could try to get closer—as she was now, literally hanging on Dee, a hand on her shoulder, staring at the new boy. Blanca was always physical, throwing her arms around people, playing with friends’ hair, rubbing up against boys she liked.

Dee shook her off now to focus on the boy. “Are you from Nigeria?” she asked, eager to show off her prior knowledge of him. You may be a different color, she thought, but I know you.

The boy shook his head. “I am from Ghana.”

“Oh.” Dee had no idea where Ghana was except that it must be in Africa. He still seemed friendly, but the expression had frozen onto his face and was becoming less sincere. Dee was determined to demonstrate that she did know something about African culture. She nodded at the woman by the fence. “Is your mom wear- ing a dashiki?” She knew the word because for Christ- mas her hippie aunt had given her pants with a dashiki pattern on them. To please her, Dee had worn them at Christmas dinner, and had to endure frowns from her mother and teasing from her older brother about wearing a tablecloth when they already had one on the table. Afterward she had shoved the pants to the back of her closet and not touched them since.

“Dashikis are shirts that African men wear,” the boy said. He could have been scornful or made fun of her, but instead he was matter-of-fact. “Or black Americans sometimes when they want to make a point.”

Dee nodded, though she wondered what that point was. “I think the Jackson Five wore them on Soul Train.” The boy smiled. “I was thinking of Malcolm X—he wore a dashiki once.” Now it seemed he was teasing her a little. Dee found she didn’t mind if it meant the stiff, frozen look disappeared.

“My mother is wearing a dress made from kente cloth,” he continued. “It is fabric from my country.”

“Why is she wearing a winter coat?”

“Unless we are in Ghana, she feels the cold even when it is warm outside.”

“Are you cold too?”

“No, I am not cold.” The boy answered in full, formal sentences, the way Dee and her classmates did during French lessons once a week. His accent wasn’t American, though it contained some American phrases. There was a hint of English in it. Dee’s mother liked to watch Upstairs, Downstairs on TV; he sounded a bit like that, though not as clipped and expensive, and with more of a singsong cadence that must come from Africa. His full sentences and lack of contractions, the lilt in his speech, the rich exaggeration of his vowels, all made Dee want to smile, but she didn’t want to be impolite.

“Is she going to pick you up after school too?” she asked. Her own mother never came to school except for parent–teacher meetings. She didn’t like to leave the house.

The boy smiled again. “I have made her promise not to come. I know the way home.”

Dee smiled back. “Probably better. Only the kids on the younger playground have their parents bring them to school and pick them up.”

The second bell rang. The fourth grade teachers turned and led their lines of children through the entrance from the playground into school. Then fifth graders would go, and finally the sixth grade classes.

“Would you like me to carry the ropes for you?” the boy asked.

“Oh! No, thanks—they’re not heavy.” They were kind of heavy. No boy had ever offered to carry them for her. “Please.” The boy held out his arms and she handed

them to him.

“What’s your name?” she asked as their line began to move.

“Osei.”

“O . . .” The name was so foreign that Dee could not find a hook in it to hang on to. It was like trying to climb a smooth boulder.

He smiled at her confusion, clearly used to it. “It is easier to call me O,” he said, bringing his name into the familiar arena of letters. “I don’t mind. Even my sister calls me O sometimes.”

“No, I can say it. O-say-ee. Is it in your language?” “Yes. It means ‘noble.’ What is your name, please?” “Dee. Short for Daniela, but everybody calls me Dee.” “Dee? Like the letter D?”

She nodded. They looked at each other, and this simple link of letters standing in for their names made them burst out laughing. O had beautiful straight teeth, a flash of light in his dark face that sparked something inside her.

Reading Group Guide

1. How closely does New Boy follow the original Othello storyline? Which parts are different? How does that affect how you read it?

2. Why do you think Chevalier chose to make the main characters 11 years old? How would the book be different if they were, say, 16?

3. A few adults make appearances in New Boy. What part do they play?

4. The 1970s is evoked through cultural references to music, fashion, books, even candy; and political references are made to the Black Panthers and to Watergate. How does setting the story in 1974 affect how we perceive it? How would the story change if it were set now? What attitudes have changed and what remained the same?

5. In Shakespeare’s Othello the parts of Desdemona and Emilia are minor. In New Boy they play much larger roles. How does that affect the balance of the story?

6. Osei’s sister Sisi plays an off-stage role but her presence is strongly felt. Why is she part of the story?

7. Shakespeare scholar Harold Bloom called Iago in Othello “an artist in evil,” in part because Shakespeare does not spell out his motivation for tormenting Othello. Would you say Ian in New Boy is evil? How does his age and the little background Chevalier gives him shape what we think of him?

8. One of the issues productions of Othello struggle with is making Othello “turn” so quickly from love to jealousy. How does Chevalier handle this problem in New Boy? Is it believable?

9. Although Chevalier has chosen to make Osei black, is race the primary issue in New Boy or a means to an end?

10. Chevalier’s choice to set New Boy in a schoolyard is a dramatic departure from the story’s original setting. Can you imagine other ways of retelling the story of Othello?

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New Boy (Hogarth Shakespeare) 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
readers_retreat 9 months ago
"NEW BOY" is the third book in the Shakespeare retold series from the bestselling author of Girl with a Pearl Earring and The Last Runaway, Tracy Chevalier. I appreciate the effort that has been made in order to modernise the Shakespearean tragedy, Othello, capturing a new audience of readers in the process. NEW BOY is set in an elementary school playground in Washington DC in 1974 and the whole story takes place in a single day. At the time, the political landscape was looking pretty bleak, as a result of the Watergate scandal, the impeachment process against Richard Nixon was nearing its conclusion, and due to this there was a climate of racial tension throughout the United States. I feel that the novel may have been more convincing had it been set in a high school. Othello explores topics surrounding sexuality and conflict, here the characters of Othello, Desdemona and Iago are just eleven years old. This is too young, in my opinion, to be believable and realistic. Even 13-14 year olds would be more appropriate in these circumstances. Also, having read the original, Chevalier has pushed the racial element to the forefront in NEW BOY, race does not play such a large part in the Shakespearean Othello. I do understand why she did this, it reflects the time period in which the retelling is set. This is a well-written and emotionally resonant read. However, I cannot understand the idea behind such young children (11 year olds) being favoured over teenagers with the issues that feature in the book. It just doesn't work for me, I am perfectly willing to suspend disbelief over most aspects of a novel that I am enjoying, but this is even too much for me. I would like to thank Tracy Chevalier, Random House UK - Vintage Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.
Tasha Mahoney 11 months ago
I will be honest here and say that while I knew the rough story of Othello, I have never read it or seen it so I chose to read this book from the synopsis rather than the Shakespearean connection. The story is set in Washington in the 70's the focus of the book is a Ghanaian diplomat's son called Osei. It's his first day at a new school and the story takes place on that one day. The main focus is on a group of students. Osei, Dee, Mimi, Blanca, Casper and Ian. There is also focus on the hideous teacher Mr Brabant and his colleague Miss Lode who mostly is a quiet and pliable character. Ian is an awful child he is the school bully, a manipulative, racist who takes pleasure in belittling others and is always looking for an opportunity to take advantage of a situation and if he can make others lives a misery while he's at it then that's all the better. When Osei joins the school that Ian has worked hard to manipulate to his will and catches the eye of the popular Dee Ian senses a shift in the balance of the carefully manipulated school playground hierarchy and sets out to make Osei the outcast. The children seem to have an automatic assumption about black people that they have picked up from their openly racist parents and teachers. Osei entered the school assuming that his colour would be the greatest issue and in some ways the racism plays a large part in the story but the racist undercurrent aids Ian's cruel pursuits too. He is not about to have his hard work undone by the new black boy in his school. I found this story disturbing, and found myself absolutely furious at times, especially at Mr Brabant. This wasn't a comfortable read but it was intense and is very well written. It is relevant to current times because it is updated and relatable to what sadly is still an issue. The use of the playground setting was genius. I would definitely recommend this book, it may not be a comfortable read but it is so well written, the characters are well crafted and it is so well paced. There were shocks and surprises, aplenty. I can imagine this book being studied in secondary schools in a comparison to Shakespeare's Othello. It is a striking piece of work in it's own right and that will catch the attention of adults and children alike.
stickerooniDM More than 1 year ago
I've read a couple of these Hogarth Shakespeare books (re-tellings of Shakespeare's plays) and my reactions have been mixed. But Tracy Chevalier's New Boy is a powerful, poignant re-telling of Othello. Osei Kokote is the son of a diplomat. He has moved around a lot and all too often been the new boy at school. Here he is more than just the new boy ... he is the black new boy at a school without any other black students. It is the 1970's and Osei is a sixth grade student. Dee is a pretty girl in the new school assigned to look after Osei and show him how things are done in this school. Dee takes an immediate liking to Osei and the two become quite friendly in the course of the afternoon with the sharing of pencil boxes and secrets. Ian is the conniving boy, looking to create trouble wherever he goes. The story is almost embarrassingly close to Shakespeare's Othello with character names and plot points so similar it would be hard to miss them. But the fact that these are children - Sixth graders! - makes this even more emotionally ripping. To see this behavior, which Chevalier makes seem so natural, is possibly even stronger than Shakespeare's work. What hope can we have for adults when we see children this way? Chevalier keeps the action contained within a matter of hours, which makes the book feel just a little rushed and some of the relationships a little less believable - though anyone who works with students this age will recognize the truth in this behavior. If you know your Shakespeare (and you probably do, if you are interested in this book) then you know the likely outcome of the story as it fits within the setting of school grounds and students. There aren't any surprises here, but Chevalier does precisely what I think the Hogarth Shakespeare project sets out to do ... to retell a Shakespeare work and to make it relevant to a modern readership. It's a short book - most people could easily read this in a day - and one worth reading. This is a powerful story, made accessible and understandable to the average, modern reader, and even more devastating because of the age of the characters involved. This could easily become required reading in middle schools across the country. Looking for a good book? Tracy Chevalier's New Boy is a powerful retelling of Shakespeare's play, Othello, and definitely a worthwhile read. I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
SheTreadsSoftly More than 1 year ago
New Boy by Tracy Chevalier is a highly recommended retelling of Othello for the Hogarth Shakespeare series. Chevalier sets her tragic story based on Shakespeare's Othello in an elementary school located in the Washington D.C. suburbs during the 1970s. With only a month of school left, sixth grader Osei Kokote is yet again the new boy in school, a position he has found himself in repeatedly as the son of a Ghanaian diplomat. Osei is also used to being one of the few students of color in school, so he knows he must find an ally. He is lucky that the teacher told popular student Dee to help him. He is even luckier that he and Dee hit it off immediately. As adolescent mercurial romances and allegiances ebb and flow quickly, the connection between the new boy and Dee is noticed by everyone, including teachers. There is one student, Ian, who can't stand to see the black boy and the white girl together and he decides to destroy their friendship. Ian is already a known bully. How far will he go to destroy Osei and Dee? This is a very well written and great addition to the Hogarth Shakespeare series. The action all takes place here in the course of one day, which is rather quick. Additionally, of course, if you know Othello, you know basically what is going to happen. This does take some of the surprise out of the retelling, which has been the case in some of the other books in the Hogarth series. Chevalier sets her book in five parts which portray the five acts in the play, and she does incorporate Shakespeare's plot into her novel. Actually this is more successful when taken on its own as a novel and not as a retelling of Othello. Since Chevalier uses adolescents as her characters, their emotions, allegiances, and angst are front and center. This works well when New Boy is considered as a novel about racism in suburban schools in the 1970's, but, in my opinion, it doesn't work quite as well for the Hogarth Shakespeare series. So, I liked it very much as a novel, but a little less as a Shakespearean tragedy for the Hogarth series. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Crown/Archetype.
SheTreadsSoftly More than 1 year ago
New Boy by Tracy Chevalier is a highly recommended retelling of Othello for the Hogarth Shakespeare series. Chevalier sets her tragic story based on Shakespeare's Othello in an elementary school located in the Washington D.C. suburbs during the 1970s. With only a month of school left, sixth grader Osei Kokote is yet again the new boy in school, a position he has found himself in repeatedly as the son of a Ghanaian diplomat. Osei is also used to being one of the few students of color in school, so he knows he must find an ally. He is lucky that the teacher told popular student Dee to help him. He is even luckier that he and Dee hit it off immediately. As adolescent mercurial romances and allegiances ebb and flow quickly, the connection between the new boy and Dee is noticed by everyone, including teachers. There is one student, Ian, who can't stand to see the black boy and the white girl together and he decides to destroy their friendship. Ian is already a known bully. How far will he go to destroy Osei and Dee? This is a very well written and great addition to the Hogarth Shakespeare series. The action all takes place here in the course of one day, which is rather quick. Additionally, of course, if you know Othello, you know basically what is going to happen. This does take some of the surprise out of the retelling, which has been the case in some of the other books in the Hogarth series. Chevalier sets her book in five parts which portray the five acts in the play, and she does incorporate Shakespeare's plot into her novel. Actually this is more successful when taken on its own as a novel and not as a retelling of Othello. Since Chevalier uses adolescents as her characters, their emotions, allegiances, and angst are front and center. This works well when New Boy is considered as a novel about racism in suburban schools in the 1970's, but, in my opinion, it doesn't work quite as well for the Hogarth Shakespeare series. So, I liked it very much as a novel, but a little less as a Shakespearean tragedy for the Hogarth series. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Crown/Archetype.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Superficial and simplistic writing
BookwormforKids More than 1 year ago
Setting Othello in a 1970's schoolyard, this book examines the evil bite of racism, jealousy and bullying. Osei is the 11 year old son of a diplomat and has spent his life moving from one school to the next. When he arrives at the school in suburban Washington, the white, popular girl, Dee, takes a romantic interest him, which doesn't meet the approval of the adults and especially not of one of the children. And those classmates aren't going to let Osei get away with becoming friends with Dee. It's been a very long time since I've read Othello, but I don't believe that a detailed memory of Shakespeare's work is necessary for reading this. The problems of racism and betrayal are bright as day, and even smaller similarities such as 'O' for Osie - or Othello - draw ties between the two stories. This book, unlike Othello's Shakespeare, is written for a young audience, and therefore, has to hold some solid differences. But the main messages and scenes come through, reminding of the original tale the entire way through. The author does a great job in bringing the schoolyard scenes to life. The kids are concerned about rules, kick ball, team choosing and who is friends with whom. Especially the idea of a one day romance snuggles perfectly into this age bracket, since relations change back and forth and back again even within hours. The characters were engaging but tended to behave older than their age. Their thoughts and comments sometimes came across too mature, and often times, I wondered if I was reading a story for young adults rather than middle grade. Especially Ian's plans to come between O and Dee showed more contemplation in a short time span than children that age consider--if they even do that type of deep planning. The 'big' moments of Mimi's tragedy and O's final salute didn't slide in as seamlessly as they might have, and rather left the impression that they had to take place to follow the idea of a retelling. However, these wouldn't be very easy scenes to build in no matter how the author would have gone about it. I really appreciated the difference between how the adults viewed things and how the children saw things. The racism seeped from the teachers and parents in every phrase and word even when subtle. The kids didn't possess this same hatred, and if left to themselves, might not have developed the same racist issues, working things out for themselves. I received this book from Blogging for Books and enjoyed it enough to want to leave my honest thoughts and opinions.
Storywraps More than 1 year ago
Tracey Chevalier is the New York Times bestselling author of "Girl with a Pearl Earring". She has so aptly written the fifth instalment in the Hogarth Shakespeare series. William Shakespeare's "Othello" is retold as "New Boy." A daunting task but done beautifully by the author. Osei Kokote known only as , "O", arrives at his fifth school in just a few short years and immediately becomes the new kid in the playground. His experience tells him he needs an immediate ally to help him maneuver and navigate his initial entry and as luck has it he encounters Dee. She is a the most popular girl in the school and there is an immediate chemistry between the two. She is smitten instantly: "O had beautiful straight teeth, Dee thinks, "a flash of light in his dark face that sparked something inside her." She learns he's from Ghana and his father is a diplomat thus explaining all his moving here and there. The novel explores the different feelings that the other students and teachers feel toward this new kid that has entered into their well-established, tight, school bubble. Racial attitudes and tensions are plumbed with lots of dialogue, positive and negative, as how to welcome the only black student into their midst. O's biggest challenge comes from a mean-spirited bully named Ian who targets him and wants to destroy his credibility and his new found relationship with Dee. Tracy Chevalier successfully weaves jealously, racism, jealousy, fears, and betrayal into her work. The tragic ending will grip your emotions long after you finish the last page. I am positive this book would resonate very well with middle-graders and they could grasp and appreciate the modern version of the classic "Othello" very much.
sandrabrazier More than 1 year ago
Osei Kokote is the new boy in the sixth grade. He is used to being the new boy, though. He has been the new boy five times in the past five years. He knows the ins and outs of how to survive as the new boy. He feels pretty fortunate to have hit it off with Dee. Still, there’s the problem that he is the only black boy in his white school. In spite of this, things are going great, that is, until the sixth grade bully decides he wants to meddle. This child-based recreation of Shakespeare’s Othello, is cleverly done. However, the black Iago is the evil meddler in Othello. In this parallel story in the sixth grade, the black boy, Osei, is the victim. Both stories have five parts and are true tragedies that deal with human frailties. However, New Boy is also a good story on its own account. I received a free book in exchange for an unbiased review.
rokinrev More than 1 year ago
A Haunting Retelling of Othello (I voluntarily reviewed this book I received from NetGalley) "There was no choice, really. Is there ever between the darkness and the light? You walk toward the smile rather than the frown." Othello is a Shakespearian play that has always kind of disturbed me. That may be because I look at it through eyes that grew up in the 60s and were affected by incidents in the 70s even to today. So, it was without the usual enthusiasm that I have had with the rest of the Hogarth reworking of Shakespeare that I requested this galley by Tracy Chevalier Set around the time of the Black Panther movement, the "new boy" Osei or "O" has come into school after his father, a diplomat, had been assigned to the D.C. Embassy. This was nothing new for O, he'd lived all over the world. He'd learned to blend in or hide because his skin color made him a target of kids and adults alike. Mix all of this into the stuff that goes on with pre-pubescence, and it becomes a volatile mix, in and out of formal classrooms, of (non)understanding, bullies, scapegoats and friends. And, much like the sharp end for Shakespeare's "Moor", Osei finds his voice and teaches how to be authentic even at the risk of others. I love these Hogarth Shakespeare books, but this one disturbed more than entertained. Well done.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Go back to the 6th grade where Othello is Osei, a new student who is the intelligent and wary son of a diplomat from Ghana, the only black person in the school. Desdemona is Dee, a beautiful and well-liked white girl who is without guile or prejudice. Iago is Ian, a manipulative bully. The cast is filled out by their friends and hangers-on. Their pre-adolescent thoughts, social hierarchy, games and "romances" are mostly believable & though you know that this story will end in tragedy of some kind, the author engages the reader and makes you hope it won't. Recommended.
Deb-Krenzer More than 1 year ago
This whole story takes place in a suburban Washington schoolyard during O's first day at his new school. The characters all come from the two sixth grade classes that attend the school. It is amazing what can happen all in one day. These kids can start to "go together" in the morning and break up by lunch. What takes place in that schoolyard is shocking, more than likely realistic and can leave you with your head shaking. I read this book and found myself talking to these characters. It was unbelievable some of the things that were going on. The experiment with telling a story in a circle secretly to the person next to you and how it gets turned around at the end of the circle is a HUGE part of this book. I was amazed that these characters were falling for some of the crap, but then they were just sixth graders. This was a very heart wrenching book that definitely left me feeling some genuine strong emotions. Because of the nature of the story, I hate to really call it entertaining. However, it was a good read and I was glad I got the chance to do so. Thanks to Crown Publishing and Net Galley for approving and allowing me to read and review this book. And, the whole story took place in just one day. SMH.