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Shakespeare's Secret Paperback – August 21, 2007


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 15 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 10
  • Lexile Measure: 620L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Square Fish; Reprint edition (August 21, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780312371326
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312371326
  • ASIN: 0312371322
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #63,895 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 4-7–Hero has always hated her Shakespearean-based name, for, as her new sixth-grade classmates are quick to tell her, it's better suited to a dog than to a girl. Resigned to their constant teasing, she concentrates instead on her newfound friendship with her kindly, if somewhat eccentric, elderly next-door neighbor. Mrs. Roth tells Hero about the missing "Murphy Diamond," a precious jewel that supposedly disappeared from the house where Hero now lives. Mrs. Roth has the necklace that once held the diamond, an heirloom that possibly once belonged to Anne Boleyn, and she is convinced that it is still hidden in the vicinity. She and Hero set out to find what the police could not, and, with help from Danny, a popular yet self-assured eighth grader who befriends them both, they succeed. Only then do the real connections among the three of them come to the surface and change their lives forever. The mystery alone will engage readers, but Broach adds a number of other interesting details to entice her audience. Readers will also find numerous facts about Elizabethan history, theories about Shakespeare's writings, and, perhaps most importantly, a moral but not preachy tale. The main characters are all well developed, and the dialogue is both realistic and well planned. Girls will relate to Hero and the defenses that she uses to protect herself from being hurt by the cruel comments and behaviors of difficult classmates. This is a good choice for recreational reading but also useful as an intro to either the complexities of Shakespeare or the tenets of good mystery writing.–Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Gr. 6-9. As usual, sixth-grader Hero's Shakespearean name prompts teasing in her new school, and her loving parents are clueless about her difficulties. Then intriguing, elderly neighbor Mrs. Roth tells her about the enormous diamond rumored to be hidden in Hero's new house. Helped by Mrs. Roth and cute eighth-grader Danny, Hero launches into a stealthy search that unearths links between the diamond's original owner and Edward de Vere, a nobleman believed by some to be the original author of Shakespeare's plays. Broach is an Elizabethan scholar, and she follows the story's detailed historical references with an endnote that further explains the true, fascinating debate about de Vere. The frequent Shakespearean quotes often feel purposeful, and the connections between clues seem too far reaching. But Broach writes with an assured sense of family dynamics and middle-school anxieties, and sophisticated readers, particularly fans of Blue Balliett's Chasing Vermeer (2004), will appreciate the true emotions, the rich language, and the revelations of many-layered mysteries that tie the past to the present. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Very fun and satisfying reading.
Quinn Garner
This plot is cleverly drawn with historical details and intrigue.
LonestarReader
I enjoyed reading this book and will recommend it to my students.
Parrish MacDonald

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Robinson on April 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book is about a girl named Hero (named after a character in Much Ado About Nothing), who moves to a small town near Washington, DC. There, Hero becomes embroiled in a mystery involving a missing diamond and a potential link between Anne Boleyn and Edward De Vere (thought by many to be the true, secret author of Shakespeare's plays). I enjoyed the historical detail of this book, and also the strong friendship that develops between Hero and the older woman who lives next door, Mrs. Roth.

One thing I struggled with regarding this book was what age range would enjoy it. I borrowed it from the Library, where it was classified as a young adult book. My first instinct was to disagree with this. Shakespeare's Secret is a relatively quick and easy read. It's also quite light as mysteries go (no murder, no physical danger). However, I can see why librarians would classify it as a young adult book. There are references to illegitimate children, and suggestive comments are written in the boy's bathroom (though the exact nature of the comments is not spelled out). Still, I personally think that the book is most suitable for 9 to 12 year olds who like mysteries, rather than for teenagers. I don't think that it holds up as well as a children's book for adults, unless they happen to be Shakespeare buffs. I saw the "twist" coming well in advance. (Of course, I read a lot!)

Overall, I think that this is a great choice for the early middle school reader who likes mysteries. I don't think that the adolescent interactions ring quite as true as those in two other books that I've read recently: Down the Rabbit Hole : An Echo Falls Mystery and Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief - Book One.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By LonestarReader VINE VOICE on September 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Hero and her older sister Beatrice were named for characters in Shakespeare's play "Much Ado about Nothing." Arriving in a new town, Hero is facing a school year as a new kid with jokes and questions about her name. Unlike Beatrice, Hero is not socially adept and does not make friends easily. She does become acquainted with their older next-door neighbor, Mrs. Roth who tells her about the Murphy Diamond, a valuable gem that might be hidden in Hero's house. Surprisingly she is also befriended by a popular 8th grader, Danny who is the son of the city's police chief who is also fascinated by the diamond's where-abouts.

Hero discovers a mysterious connection between the diamond, Anne Boleyn and Shakespeare's plays which fires her imagination.

This plot is cleverly drawn with historical details and intrigue. Hero and Danny are searching for more than a diamond and the reader is hoping they find their heart's desire.

I truly enjoyed this novel. The mystery is very satisfying. One can hope it would also excite a reader's interest in Shakespeare.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Alan Gratz on May 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Shakespeare's Secret is a brisk middle-grade mystery with a simple premise: a sixth-grade girl learns that the house her family has just moved into may be hiding a million-dollar diamond. That idea alone is worthy of a good kid lit mystery, but the diamond didn't belong to just anybody - it was a de Vere family heirloom - as in Edward de Vere, the man some scholars believe may be the real author behind the works commonly attributed to William Shakespeare.

The Shakespearean mystery is unimportant to the discovery of the diamond, making it feel a bit of a separate academic pursuit. Regardless, it was this part of the mystery that I thought was the strongest and most interesting, and it's a fabulous introduction to a few interesting characters from Elizabethan England. My biggest problem with the story was that none of the characters really had anything at stake; if the diamond went unfound, none of their lives would really be all that different.

Still, it's extraordinarily rare that I read a book in one sitting (as I did here), which speaks well of Broach's fluid, easy style and swift, action-filled story. This book is often compared favorably to Chasing Vermeer, and it doesn't hurt that both have fabulous covers by Brett Helquist. Frankly though, I found Shakespeare's Secret to be superior.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By a book lover on April 27, 2008
Format: Paperback
As an adult reader of young adult and middle-grade novels, I found this a compelling read. The historical background on Shakespeare, Anne Boylen, and Elizabeth I is fascinating, the action keeps moving along, and the characters are likeable. However, I am puzzled over the age of the intended audience. There are several adult themes presented: adultery and beheadings (with regard to Anne Boylen), the description of a wanton woman as one who sleeps around, infertility, and more. Yet the main character is a 6th grader! Young readers tend to prefer books about characters their own age or slightly older, yet I would hesitate to give this book to my 5th grader because of the flirtation with these themes. As a parent and former librarian, I think the best target audience would be 9th and 10th graders, yet the book is almost too simple and the characters too young to hold the interest of high schoolers. Perhaps this book is best left to adult fans of children's fiction.
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