- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 26, 2008

London Orcurto, age 14

Home-schooled, Bowie

A new home with a new school and new neighbors — and a missing diamond from a necklace over 500 years old; a mystery from the time of the illustrious William Shakespeare that could reveal the playwright’s true identity …

A young sixth-grader, Hero Netherfield, is intrigued to discover these facts about her new house in Maryland. What do you think? Could the diamond really be hidden in her house? Elise Broach reveals the clues in “Shakespeare’s Secret.”

All Hero wanted to do when she moved to Maryland was to fit in. She never expected to uncover a mystery. On the day before school starts, however, Hero meets Mrs. Roth, their neighbor, who begins to tell her about the Murphy diamond, which is supposedly hidden in Hero’s house.

Soon after, she is engrossed by clues and ideas about the tragic death of Mrs. Murphy, the possibility that Queen Elizabeth I might have had a son and the uncanny truth that William Shakespeare could have merely been a cover name for someone else.

Meanwhile, at school, Hero is not fitting in well and has to live through ridicule every day. Through an unlikely circumstance, she meets Danny Cordova. According to Hero’s sister, Beatrice, he is in the eighth grade and is the cutest boy in the school.

Later, she is surprised to find that he also knows about the diamond mystery, and when he goes so far as to offer his help, Hero decides to accept. However, even though Danny may say he has no particular interest in the diamond’s million-dollar value, Hero begins to suspect there is more to it than his words.

At one point, Hero overhears that someone has written something about her on the inside of one of the boys’ stalls at school. Danny confirms this when she asks him, but he doesn’t say what was written. He offers to sneak into the school that night and spray paint over it, but Hero tells him no.”

So she is bewildered the next day when the principal, Mr. Rivnor, requests her presence in his office. Once inside, he begins to explain how someone broke into the boys’ bathroom the night before and vandalized one side of a stall by painting it black. He was later informed that the graffiti had included Hero’s name.

She knew her parents would be upset and what her older sister would say, but only one thing mattered to Hero at that moment: Danny had done it just for her. This scene was positively a favorite for me. Through these actions, Danny proved to Hero that he was truly her friend.

“Shakespeare’s Secret” deserves the label fantastic.” Elise Broach fills the pages with an in-depth mystery that does not lead away from the character’s personal lives; the elements are woven together quite flawlessly. Putting it down is next to impossible. Ten- to 14-year-olds would enjoy this book best, considering the emotions and its historical aspect.

****

BOOK: Shakespeare’s Secret

AUTHOR: Elise Broach

PUBLISHER: Square Fish (August 2007), paperback, 272 pages

READING LEVEL: Ages 9 through 14

PRICE: $5.99

INFORMATION: https://us.macmillan.com/shakespearessecret

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