by Elise Broach, published 2005
“Hero smiled at him. Her father was always clueless about her real life. She felt a strange mixture of pity and gratitude. It was good to be home, in the bright, safe kitchen… her parents bustling obliviously just a few feet away.“
This children’s book, like Masterpiece by the same author, has an unusual stew of elements that make a lovely goulash of a story. In this case, the elements are adjusting to a new school, bullying, a mystery, and the scholarly question, “Who was the real Shakespeare?” Each element creates it’s own narrative thread that is woven with the others, making the book multidimensional and interesting.
The thread that holds the whole book together is an unsolved mystery about a missing diamond. However, the diamond story is intimately linked with the question about Shakespeare, which allows the reader to get educated about Shakespeare without it becoming boring or pedantic. For kids who have a literary bent, this is a terrific way to bring in the subject matter into a children’s book.
The main character, Hero, is a sixth-grade girl who has a hard time fitting in to school, especially because of her unusual name. We get a close look at the effects of bullying and the emotional impact on Hero, and see her change and grow as well.
I recommend this for 6th grade and up, because I think that the literary references might not be interesting to younger children. A nice companion book might be the poetry of Emily Dickinson, since one of her poems forms a part of the theme. Overall, an enjoyable children’s book to read.