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Shakespeare's Spy (Shakespeare Stealer, Book 3) Paperback – April 21, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-8-In this newest addition to the series, the apprentice Widge becomes a spy to determine who is stealing scripts of Shakespeare's latest play from the Lord Chamberlain's Men. After a loud argument, he pretends that the playwright has dismissed him and attains an acting position with the Admiral's Men. His talent for "swift writing" enables him to crack an encoded note that identifies the culprit. While describing Widge's frenetic activities, Blackwood shows the political and religious instability that prevailed due to Queen Elizabeth's failing health. The monarch is a prime supporter of Shakespeare's dramas, and the company members wonder what their fate will be after her death. Meanwhile, they attempt to rid their plays of any reference to Papists so no one will report them to the already insecure authorities. Widge and his friends love adventure; they venture into treacherous, forbidden streets to seek a mysterious and frightening fortune-teller and they taunt one another to cross the frozen river. Readers will identify with Widge's increasing self-understanding and integrity gained from his experiences. Blackwood's well-integrated plot and intriguing subplots ensure a fast-paced tale of Elizabethan England that fans of the earlier novels will love; the author incorporates historical details from the broad political scene to the minute social scene to give authority and excitement to the story.
Susan Cooley, formerly at Tower Hill School, Wilmington, DE
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Gr. 5-8. This sequel to The Shakespeare Stealer (1998) and Shakespeare's Scribe (2000) is narrated by Widge, an orphan boy who acts with the Lord Chamberlain's Men at the Globe Theatre. Widge, at the precarious age when his changing voice jeopardizes his ability to play women's roles, becomes infatuated with an older woman, Mr. Shakespeare's daughter, Judith, and begins to write plays in hopes of impressing her. Soon he proves his acting ability offstage by taking on a secret mission for his employers. Blackwood goes beyond mere costume drama here, bringing together actual people, events, and details of daily life from the period and infusing them with an Elizabethan outlook. In an appended note, Blackwood separates fact from fiction. Characters and themes from the earlier books reappear in this story, while the increasingly mature Widge grapples anew with his identity and his place in the world. With a more convincing portrayal of its period than most historical novels, this book is a solid addition to a rewarding series. Carolyn Phelan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 0850 (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin Books; Reprint edition (April 21, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142403113
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142403112
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #405,022 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gary L. Blackwood sold his first story when he was nineteen, and has been writing and publishing stories, articles, plays, novels, and nonfiction books regularly ever since. His stage plays have won awards and been produced in university and regional theatre. Nonfiction subjects he's covered include biography, history, and paranormal phenomena. His juvenile novels, which include WILD TIMOTHY, THE DYING SUN, and THE SHAKESPEARE STEALER, are set in a wide range of times and places, from Elizabethan England to a parallel universe. Several have received special recognition and been translated into other languages. He lives near Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I was drawn in by the first Shakespeare book by Gary - "Shakespeare Stealer" and was pleased to read more about Widge and his continuing adventures in this 3rd book - "Shakespeare's Spy." Gary Blackwood is an extraordinary writer and amazingly brings Widge and the other characters to life in this non stop, what's going to happen next, who did it, tale!! This particular book has many plots: who is stealing from Mr. Shakespeare? Will Widge write his own play? Will Widge get the girl? and more importantly, does he really want the girl?? and what about that fortune teller? Must read to find out!!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Whitt Patrick Pond TOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 14, 2008
Format: Paperback
Shakespeare's Spy is the third (and apparently the last) book in Blackwood's Shakespeare Stealer series. I would like to think that there might be more books in the future, as I have enjoyed this series quite a bit, but the events in this book have a coming-of-age feel to them as we see Widge having to confront the challenges of love and death, not to mention having to find a way to aid an old friend and to find out who's been spying on Master Shakespeare's troupe at the same time.

As always, Blackwood does an excellent job of working in details about life in Shakespeare's London and about life in the world of Elizabethan theater. And as he did in Shakespeare's Scribe, Blackwood here goes into even more detail about what goes into the writing of a play as Widge tries his hand at writing a play of his own. Using this, Blackwood also cleverly shows the reader at the same time how it is possible that not all the plays we think of as being Shakespeare's were necessarily his work. One of the things I like about Blackwood's books is that you learn things about the actual historical period in the process of an enjoyable read. The actual history in this case adds to the drama as Widge and his fellow players must deal with the impending death of Queen Elizabeth, under whose reign the theater prospered. They must wait anxiously to see whether her successor, James, will be a patron of the theater or, if the Puritans have their way, will have it banned as a sinful indulgence, putting an end to all theatrical performances and to their way of life.

Another thing I particularly liked about Shakespeare's Spy is Blackwood's use of a fortune teller who early on foretells what fate has in store for Widge, his friend Sam and his rival Sal Pavy.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By C. Carnevale on October 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book was as good as the ones before it. The information laid out in the book was intriguing, especially the parts about the Papists and the queen's failing health. The author cleverly inserts Timon of Athens into the plot of the novel and a reappearance of a character in the first book occurs. I think overall it was well done!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Grambo on August 20, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this third book of the series, the author is back to lively writing and entertaining storytelling. (The second volume was a slow starter.)

Times were hard for theater people in London in 1603, and the plague continued to endanger lives. Widge tries to solve a mystery of stolen costumes, meets Will Shakespeare's daughter, and with Shakespeare's help, also tries his hand at writing a play -- acquiring a new name in the process! Small references to events in the previous two books -- The Shakespeare Stealer and Shakespeare's Scribe -- are more easily understood if you've read them first.

As always, I enjoy learning about historical facts while I am reading fiction. Although I have read in history books about the fact that the English (Anglican) Church was the country's mandated church during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, I hadn't realized until I read this how hard life would have been for Catholics at that time. (I did know that the Jews were persecuted in the Middle Ages.)

Some people have expressed alarm that there is a "fortune teller" in this book. I don't think the author is trying to convince anyone that this was anything other than a phenomenon of the times. In the Author's Note at the end, the author explains this and other historical facts. Shakespeare really did have a daughter named Judith, who is in this book!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Aletheia Knights on July 6, 2011
Format: Paperback
It was a month ago that I read "The Shakespeare Stealer" and found myself absorbed in the world of Elizabethan theatre and the life of the plucky orphan Widge. I couldn't wait to get my hands on the next two books in the series. "Shakespeare's Spy" is the final chapter of Widge's adventures. In this novel, a series of thefts and the attention of anti-Catholic authorities bring it to the attention of the Lord Chamberlain's Men that there is a traitor in their midst. As the players speculate amongst themselves as to which of them it might be, Widge is preoccupied with a new project: writing a play, in the hopes that he can impress Shakespeare's beautiful daughter, Judith.

This wasn't my favorite book of the trilogy; it seemed a little more contrived than the others, a little less natural, a little more reliant on standard fiction "devices." However, this minor flaw hardly disqualifies the novel from a place with its predecessors among the ranks of excellent juvenile historical fiction. The same candor, wit, and tenderness that made the first two novels such a delight are intact in this sequel, and once again, Gary Blackwood offers just enough clues to enable the attentive reader to uncover most of the novel's secrets. His audacious treatment of real historical figures, depicting them as flesh-and-blood creatures as splendidly imagined as the wholly fictitious characters, rather than untouchable relics, is on display here more than ever. Blackwood feels thoroughly at home in Widge's world, and it shows. A fortune-teller who makes several brief appearances offers an offbeat sort of foreshadowing, as her predictions do all come true by the novel's end, but not in the way either the characters or the reader would ever have expected.
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