In Shakespeare's Scribe, the sequel to the popular The Shakespeare Stelaer, Gary Blackwood leaps back in time once more to explore the life of Widge, an orphan struggling to survive in Elizabethan England. In the earlier book, Widge struggles against wicked men trying to use his skill of charactery. In the sequel, Widge's struggles are more with his own identity and with the vicious threat of the Black Plague tearing through the land. But, amid such absorbing issues, the teenager finds time to treat Shakespeare's broken arm and help the bard create some of the greatest lines from his plays. With touches of tragedy and humor, Blackwood walks us through effects of the deadly Black plague and a gritty view of life back then. While this book takes on a more soap-opera tone with the parentage issue of illnesses, Blackwood continues to offer a compelling and engaging lesson in history. Genre: Historical Fiction. 2000, Dutton Children's Books, 265 pp., $15.99. Ages 10 up. Reviewer: Lori Atkins-Goodson; Wamego, Kansas
Due to the outbreak of the Black Plague and the closing of the Globe Theatre, the acting troop of Lord Chamberlain's Men, which happens to include William Shakespeare and his brother, are forced to tour England. When Shakespeare's arm is broken, the young Widge steps in with his writing skills as the master works on his plays. In this delightful sequel to The Shakespeare Stealer, Blackwood presents a realistic peek into this fascinating period of history. Widge, who serves as narrator, gives us some gruesome looks into the deadly effects of the plague. His skills in medicine help the traveling caravan of struggling actors and often save the day. Widge is a wonderful character, with insight, humor and all the miseries of a typical adolescent. Trying to locate his mother, the orphan runs into a mysterious man who might well be his father. Both Widge and the reader are pulled along as the man proves a great friend, but sadly, not the young man's father. As the troop moves from town to town trying to outmaneuver both the plague and the Earl of Pembroke's Men, another traveling acting troop, Widge proves to be both resourceful and talented. One of his fellow actors and another apprentice, Sal Pavy, is also extremely talented but haughty and mysterious. Here is another wonderful character who is more than we expect. Between the language, the colorful characters and the settings, Shakespeare's Scribe provides an excellent look at history in a most entertaining way. Hopefully another volume will follow in these wonderful adventures. (Sequel to The Shakespeare Stealer) Category: Paperback Fiction. KLIATT Codes: J*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior high school students. 2000, Penguin,Puffin, 266p., , Des Plaines,
The gripping plot of Blackwood's second book, the well-developed characters, and Elizabethan England setting all contribute to an exciting read for the 10- to 13-year-old reader. Widge, the orphaned main character, becomes an apprentice to Shakespeare's Chamberlain players. Due to fears about the Black Plague, the Queen declares an end to group gatherings in London. The company then opts to tour the countryside where many exciting adventures befall them. During these travels, Widge carefully weighs ethical questions concerning loyalty and right and wrong, giving readers many opportunities to form their own opinions. Despite the fictional setting, historical details about the time period and the design of the Globe Theater as well as backstage activities are accurately portrayed. Humor and suspense add to the enjoyment of this book, and as Shakespeare would say, "All's well that ends well." 2002 (orig. 2000), Puffin/Penguin, Ages 10 to 13.
In this sequel to Blackwood's award-winning The Shakespeare Stealer (Dutton, 1998/VOYA August 1998), Widge, a fifteen-year-old orphan, has become an apprentice in William Shakespeare's acting company, the Lord Chamberlain's Men. He is valued both for his talent on the stage and for his skills in shorthand and medicine. When the plague strikes London in 1602, however, the theaters are ordered closed, and the actors must take to the road. Widge's newly developed sense of self-respect is severely tested, first, when another child actor begins to steal his roles, and later when Jamie Redshaw, a gambler and former soldier who might be his father, is accused of making off with the acting company's receipts. Blackwood keeps his plot moving smoothly, adding just enough information about Shakespeare, his plays, early seventeenth-century theater practicesuch as boys playing women's rolesand contemporary English culture to provide a solid sense of place. In Widge he has found an entirely believable protagonist. The novel is less spectacular in its plot and style than is Susan Cooper's recent Shakespearean fantasy, King of Shadows (McElderry, 1999/VOYA December 1999), but it provides a more realistic introduction to the period. This well-done tale should appeal particularly to readers who love historical fiction or who have an interest in the theater, and it is a recommended purchase for any general middle school collection. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2000, Dutton, 224p, $15.99. Ages 12 to 14. Reviewer: Michael Levy
SOURCE: VOYA, October 2000 (Vol. 23, No. 4)
Gr 5-8-In this sequel to The Shakespeare Stealer (Dutton, 1998), Widge has become a "prentice" to the Lord Chamberlain's Men, Will Shakespeare's acting troupe. Besides acting many of the female roles, the youngster uses his skills in "swift writing" to decipher Shakespeare's scribbles and provide individual scripts for each actor. When the plague closes the theatres in London, the players take to the road, but uncooperative company members, brigands, fire, and hostile officials make traveling a challenge. In addition, Widge loses some key roles to an uppity new prentice and wrestles with his emotions as he meets a man who claims to be his father. Through it all, he learns to recognize his own worth and the importance of true friends, and this, of course, is the crux of the story. As with his earlier title, Blackwood has created a vivid portrait of Elizabethan England via wonderful period details, along with plenty of references to the plays and life "upon the wicked stage." The story is extremely well structured, with several interesting subplots; the chapters end at just the right moment, leaving readers eager to plunge ahead. The characters are well developed, with Widge being particularly memorable. The dialogue is realistic, and the humorous plays on words add another level of interest. An exciting, well-written tale that is sure to leave young thespians clamoring for more.-Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Every bit as brawling and vigorous as its prequel, The Shakespeare Stealer (1998), this takes young Widge, apprentice actor, on tour with Shakespeare's own Chamberlain's Men, to meet challenges to life and livelihood while unearthing clues to his hidden past. After the threat of plague closes London's theaters, the company sets off to play smaller towns, leaving Widge's friend Sander behind but hiring malicious, talented Salathiel Pavy away from another troupe to help portray the women and children. One by one, Sal begins taking over roles that once were Widge's: welcome relief, at first, as Widge has plenty of other duties, including taking dictation for Will, who has broken an arm in the midst of composing a play tentatively titled Love's Labours Won, to present to the Queen. Soon, however, an unfriendly rivalry develops between the two apprentices. Then, Widge gets a double shock: revisiting the orphanage where he spent his first few years, he learns his mother's name, and ex-soldier Jamie Redshaw steps forward, claiming to be his father. Mixing swordplay and wordplay measure for measure" ‘He may vote as he will . . . for the will of the company outweighs the will of Will, will he or nil he . . . And the weal of the company . . . outweighs the weal of Will as well.' " Blackwood creates a vivid picture of the times, as the company encounters brigands, widespread fear of the plague, and internal dissension. When Redshaw is revealed as the Elizabethan equivalent of a con-man, Widge is forced to make some agonizing choices; he returns to London alone, just in time to see Sander die of plague. Then, screwing his courage to thestickingplace, he challenges Sal to an actors' duel, to see who would make the better Helena in the new play, now dubbed All's Well That Ends Well. A first-rate tale, with a strong cast and plenty of insight into stagecraft and the art of acting. (Fiction. 11-13)