Book Club: The Shakespeare Stealer

Having finished our two-year survey of the world via cartography, history, and literature, our co-op is taking a new direction this year, and our two themes revolve around Shakespeare and candles. Yes, candles! The chemistry behind candles, to be exact. And it's a much broader and more interesting study than that might sound at first blush. But I'll write about another time.

In our regular classes, we're learning more about William Shakespeare and spending time getting to know two of his plays. So to go along with this, we chose Gary Blackwood's The Shakespeare Stealer as our first Book Club selection. For kids who had already read this one, we encouraged them to also read Shakespeare's Scribe, the second in a series of three.

The Shakespeare Stealer tells the tale of Widge, a 14 year old orphan, who is given the task of stealing Shakespeare's Hamlet by transcribing it using a form of shorthand known as charactery. Before the unraveling of the plot at the end, readers will gain a sense of theatre life in the Elizabethan Age, sword play, and the importance of loyalty as they watch Widge mature.

Here's an interview with author Gary Blackwood that you might enjoy.

We began with a delectable lunch consisting of bubble and squeak, toad-in-the-hole popovers, and spiced apple juice. And of course, aiming for authenticity, we ate using only knives and fingers for utensils! ("What other forks does one need when he already has forks at the ends of his hands?")

Next, we settled in for a discussion using the story chart technique from Teaching the Classics.

This chart helps students see the flow of any story, and as they think and discuss, they eventually arrive at the main conflict and then the theme of the tale. Some books are more complicated than others, and often there can be multiple conflicts with various climaxes. Happily, The Shakespeare Stealer has a fairly simple overall plot, and we arrived at these conclusions:

Enough of sitting around, though! Time for some playacting!

Since swordplay figures heavily in the book, we thought it would be fun to try our hands (and feet) at learning how to put on a convincing sword battle.

Shakespeare for Kids has in-depth instructions for teaching how to duel with swords. Some pairs of kids found the dance-like movements easier than others, but all enjoyed giving it a go!



Pandabear said…
Heyy its my sword. I was looking for that for my ninja costume. Except its not really a ninja sword. But apparently college students are really into Halloween and I left all my cloaks and medieval/elvish apparel back home.
Anne said…
Have you been able to come up with something anyway? I don't think we'll be able to deliver any swords this week, but we could send a cloak or something. Let me know. Peter's planning to run a race on Sat. wearing a chicken costume.
Pandabear said…
I can be a ninja if I want, and wear all black. I haven't decided if I'm going to do that for design class tomorrow, but we get 10 points extra credit if we do. The whole class is 5000 points, though so its not really significant. Its getting past cloak wearing weather anyway... Siberia is marching closer.

Peter's weird. =) Make sure there are pictures.
Anne said…
I think you should go for the ninja look tomorrow. And, yes, I'll be sure to get some pictures of Peter. His costume and race entry are being sponsored by someone who is hoping to see a chicken win the race. ;)
Kristen Wegener said…
Peter's weird? Who's the one talking about going to class dressed like a Ninja? ;)
And just wait. Siberia may be in November, but Arctic will come and stay in January and February.

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