Susan Cooper is one of our foremost children's authors; her classic five-book fantasy sequence The Dark Is Rising has sold millions of copies worldwide. Her many books have won the Newbery Medal, a Newbery Honor, and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, and been shortlisted five times for the Carnegie Medal. She combines fantasy with history in Victory (a Washington Post Top Ten for Children novel), King of Shadows and Ghost Hawk, and her magical The Boggart and the Monster, second in a trilogy, won the Scottish Arts Council's Children's Book Award. Susan Cooper lives on a saltmarsh island in Massachusetts, and you can visit her online at TheLostLand.com.
Cooper (The Dark Is Rising) brilliantly weaves past and present together, using London's Globe Theatre as backdrop, to demonstrate the timelessness of Shakespeare's works and the theater at large. The first segment of the novel, set in the present, details Nathan Field's rehearsals for the part of Puck in an upcoming production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, to be mounted in the newly renovated Globe. He has been chosen, along with a group of other boys from America, to travel to England for the performance. When Nat is suddenly stricken with a serious illness, he awakens to find himself once again cast as Puck at the Globe Theatre, but the year is 1599. Cooper meticulously conveys Nat's impressions of the sights, sounds, smells and textures of Elizabethan England. She is equally adept at evoking the boy's respect and awe for his "new" director, the bard himself. Shakespeare, cast as a wise, intuitive father figure, takes orphaned Nat under his wing. In return, Nat saves the playwright's life by unknowingly changing the natural course of history. Through the boy's relationship with "Will," as Nat calls him, Cooper deftly reveals Nat's unresolved feelings about his own deceased father. The judicious use of quotes from Shakespeare's plays and sonnets will awaken in novices an interest in his works and command respect from seasoned fans. Fascinating details of 16th-century troupe life as well as how costumes, make-up and stage effects were carried out add depth and layers to the depiction of life 400 years ago. An unexpected, appropriately enigmatic ending brings this masterful novel to a closeÄand brings home the resounding message that the show must go on. Ages 10-14. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Gr 5-8-Orphan Nat Field is chosen as part of an American theater group to perform at the new Globe Theatre in London. Nat's big role will be Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream. However, his debut is pushed 400 years into the past when he is put to bed with a high fever and wakes up in Elizabethan England. Forced to adapt or be discovered, Nat figures out his situation quickly with judicious questions that result in naturally occurring explanations of the times, the plays, and the theater. The time-travel element is well constructed. Through occasional flashes to the present, readers learn that a boy presumed to be Nat is being treated for bubonic plague. Nat Field has switched places with the infected Nathan Field, who is just about to arrive at the old Globe on loan from another company-thus, thanks to modern medicine, Shakespeare and his plays are saved for the ages. Something in the boy attracts the attention of Will himself and Nat soon becomes his prot‚g‚. The father/son relationship between the two fills a need for Nat, whose suppressed sorrow at his father's suicide after his mother's death is finally expressed. The circumstances of his father's death and Nat's reluctance to deal with it are hinted at rather clumsily in the beginning of the book and dispatched succinctly when finally addressed, and come off as clearly secondary to the involving theater experiences. Still, Cooper's readers and fans of Gary Blackwood's Shakespeare Stealer (Dutton, 1998) will revel in the hurly-burly of rehearsals and the performance before the queen, the near discoveries, the company rivalries, and some neatly drawn parallels.-Sally Margolis, Barton Public Library, VT Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
*Readers will be swept up in Nat's detailed, sensory-filled observations of life in Shakespeare's time...[The] overall shape of the novel, with its finely drawn connections between Nat's story and A Midsummer Night's Dream, is superb.-- "The Horn Book, starred review"