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Secrets of Shakespeare's Grave: The Shakespeare Mysteries, Book 1 Hardcover – September 4, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 4-6-This curiously old-fashioned mystery involves attempts by teenager Case and his younger sister, Colophon, to help save their family's publishing business. The extremely confusing beginning melds newspaper articles, events told by people centuries prior, and modern viewpoints. While the tale occurs in 2005, the line drawings contribute to the overall disorientation in the mix of past and present. The story is told from a number of perspectives as the Letterford siblings strive to overcome their mutual loathing and help their father find a way to keep the business afloat. If he cannot accomplish this, the company reverts to ownership by an odious relative. The plot is a bit far-fetched and the mystery is solved in a facile manner. The humor can be slapstick and silly but might appeal to some readers. Because the pacing is fast, this book may be enjoyed by reluctant readers looking for a traditional mystery. The author ends on an enigmatic note, presaging a sequel. One might have wished for more information about Shakespeare, who plays a key role in the whodunit.-B. Allison Gray, Goleta Public Library, CAα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

Twelve-year-old Colophon lives a quiet life in Manchester, Georgia, with her down-to-earth mother, her smirking older brother, and her kind father, who directs the family firm, a distinguished publishing house established in England more than 400 years ago. When a malicious distant relative threatens to seize control of the business, Colophon swings into action. Aided by her father’s eccentric cousin, Julian, she follows clues found in family artifacts and hunts in England for the elusive family treasure, hidden since the 1600s. A brief epilogue lays the groundwork for a sequel, and an appendix identifies the Shakespearean plays and poems referred to in the chapter headings. The always-entertaining narrative deftly switches back and forth between high-tension drama (Colophon and Julian searching a centuries-old English graveyard) and scenes of broad comedy (her brother helping her father woo best-selling authors). Geyer’s many handsome pen-and-ink illustrations help establish the tone of Hicks’ appealing first novel, a fine traditional mystery with a modern sensibility. Grades 4-6. --Carolyn Phelan

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 7 - 10 years
  • Grade Level: 2 - 5
  • Lexile Measure: 720L (What's this?)
  • Series: The Shakespeare Mysteries (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (September 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547840349
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547840345
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,382,413 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I live in Warm Springs, Georgia with my wife Angela, daughter Meg, and son Parker. I am a proud graduate of the University of Georgia, where I obtained a bachelor of fine arts degree in painting. Having obtained a degree in painting, I took the next logical step in life -- I went to law school (and I actually loved it). I spent the next three years at Mercer Law School in Macon, Georgia. I have always been an avid reader. Several years ago, I started reading a series of books about William Shakespeare. I had never been a big fan of the bard, but something changed. I became inspired by Shakespeare and the world in which he lived. I wanted some way to share this interest with my children -- so I wrote a book. And then I wrote another book. It has been a wonderful journey so far.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Pop Bop TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I don't quite get it. This book is head and shoulders above most middle-grade quest/mystery/puzzle books, and yet many of the reviews I've seen are disappointed because it's not the next "DaVinci Code". (Actually, it earns higher marks than "Code" in some respects.)

First off, we have a much more engaging and well-developed heroine than is usually the case. This character actually has a backstory, clear motivations, an actual inner life, and an engaging personality. She's not just the sketched in "type" that often serves in middle-grade fiction, even good middle grade fiction.

Next, we have a slow but rich introduction to the characters and build up to the plot. I like a book that takes a little time to build some anticipation, set the background, lay out a scene, and introduce some themes, before larking off on a quest. This book builds nicely to a family Thanksgiving dinner that brings all of the characters who have been introduced together so that the pot can start boiling.

By then, and thereafter, we are treated to the work of an author who actually can write dialogue. Again, in many of the middle-grade books I've read the characters' voices are indistinguishable, and the dialogue is just exposition with quotation marks. Obviously, there is a fair amount of that here too. It seems to be the nature of the beast. But every now and then there is a brief scene, or exchange, or set piece where there is real communication, by way of dialogue, between substantial characters. Colophon and her Dad; Colophon and her brother; Colophon and her cousin Julius - this may not be Henry James territory, but it is way above average.

On top of all that we have the whole Shakepeare angle, which is handled in as lively and engaging a fashion imaginable.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Karen Keyte VINE VOICE on September 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"The driveway leading to the family home wound its way through a thick forest of tall hardwoods and then a large rolling field. Golden bales of freshly cut hay peppered the landscape. On both sides of the road, a low-stacked stone wall corralled the vehicle as it sped toward the large brick Victorian resting at the edge of the pasture." - from Secrets of Shakespeare's Grave

Letterford & Sons might not be the largest publishing house in the world, but it is widely considered to be the most prestigious. For over four hundred years the firm has passed from eldest son to eldest son, owned and controlled by one Letterford for the benefit of the entire family. The affable and scholarly Mull Letterford runs the firm currently and, though Mull is dedicated to the business and very good at what he does, the firm has recently been plagued by a series of bizarre accidents and unforeseen events which have threatened the bottom line. Now a distant cousin is launching a hostile takeover and Mull could lose control of the grand old firm forever.

Enter Mull's twelve-year-old daughter, Colophon. Exceedingly bright for her age and blessed with a mind for puzzles, Colophon is determined to keep her father where he belongs, at the head of Letterford & Sons. When her father's eccentric cousin Julian tells Colophon the tale of a long hidden family treasure, she decides to help him find it. A treasure will make it possible for her father to buy out the rest of the family and keep the publishing house in his hands. For his part, Julian is just odd enough to welcome the help of a mere school girl. He cares little for the value of the treasure, he just wants to prove that it exists. But dark forces are aligning against the mismatched duo - can they complete their quest before it's too late?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Didaskalex VINE VOICE on August 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"One of the best middle-grade novels I've ever read. The 35 interior pen & inks I did for it were a total joy. HMH hired another artist to do the cover and it's absolutely perfect for the story." -- Illustrator Mark Geyer

Three years ago an article by David Harrison with the heading, "Tomb search could end the riddle of Shakespeare's true identity" It appeared on the Telegraph of August 9, 2009. Announcing that a sarcophagus was discovered in an English parish church, hinting it could solve a centuries-old literary debate over who really wrote the plays of William Shakespeare. Accordingly, St Mary's church in Warwick parishioners have sought permission to examine the contents of a 17th century monument built by Fulke Greville.

Greville, a writer, was a contemporary of Shakespeare, whom sceptics believed is the real author of several of the poet's works. In an echo of the bestseller book and blockbuster film, The DaVinci Code, a search has been prompted by a historian discovery of clues in Greville's writings suggesting he had several manuscripts buried there, including a copy of Antony and Cleopatra. The project was to be supervised by Professor Warwick Rodwell, consulting archaeologist to Westminster Abbey, who was very keen for the project to go ahead.

A radar scan of the sarcophagus has already indicated the presence inside of three "box like" shapes. The searchers believe these could contain documents and a further examination is now being proposed which they hope will finally prove the link between Greville and Shakespeare. The initial search, using solid penetrating radar, was approved by the church council and the diocese.
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