Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Shakespeare Stealer

The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood is the story of Widge, an orphan in the late 16th century. Widge is taken in by a rector, who teaches Widge a version of shorthand. The rector uses Widge's learned skill by sending him to listen to sermons and have him transcribe them word by word.

Eventually Widge is sold to another man who charges him to transcribe Shakespeare's Hamlet while standing in the audience. Widge succeeds, but loses his transcription. Caught behind the stage, he pretends to be interested in learning to be one of the players.

Widge makes friends with the other apprentices -- the first real friends of his life -- and the players become his family in a way that he has never had before. Eventually Widge has to choose between loyalty to his purchaser and his new-found friends.

Spyder and I both really enjoyed this book, and we had an excellent discussion on it afterward.

Many of the people in the book play a role to conceal his true character, just as a player does on the stage. Widge pretends to have the acting bug so that he can steal the play, although he learns how difficult that is. The rector pretends to be an upright and honest man, but he uses Widge to steal ideas and words from others. There are other examples, but they would be spoilers, and I wouldn't do that to anyone. But at any rate, Widge finds that the people who show their true selves to him are the players themselves.

Additionally, Widge finds himself in a situation where he has to find his own morals. His world has been filled with adults who display amoral behavior in one way or another. Widge has been shown this type of behavior, but he finds that he is dissatisfied with it and decides to make his own way.

This is exactly the kind of book I hope to find when I'm browsing, one that is both exciting and thoughtful.

Very highly recommended for both boys and girls (and adults)!

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