Review Detail

Kids Fiction 819
Bringing Shakespeare to Life
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
Cooper Vega is used to moving a lot with his parents' jobs, but it still gets old being "what's his face". At his newest school, he manages to run afoul of Brock, the popular, jerk-face jock. He has a pleasant interaction with Jolie, who is also popular and absolutely addicted to extreme sports. The town, Stratford, is greatly influenced by the wealthy Mr. Wulfson, who is a Shakespeare aficionado and collector of Shakespearean artifacts. Because of this, the middle school always puts on a play, and this year Romeo and Juliet is in line for production. Of course, Brock is cast as Romeo, and Jolie as Juliet, much to Cooper's chagrin. Cooper has bigger problems, though-- the new phone with which his parents have tried to bribe him, the GX-4000 is glitchy... and haunted. The ghost of a Shakespearean era printer's apprentice, Roddy, is in control of the phone and giving Cooper a VERY hard time. Between wanting to go to class to see all of the innovations in the world, to cursing out Brock in inventive language, to giving Cooper tips on how to woo Jolie, Roddy is annoying, but also the closet thing Cooper has to a best friend. He is also very helpful when Brock injures himself and Cooper has to step in to the role of Romeo! Eventually, Cooper and Roddy figure out why Roddy is haunting the phone, and investigate some of Mr. Wulfson's holdings in order to solve a centuries old mystery.
Good Points
I'm not a fan of Shakespeare AT ALL, but the way that Korman worked this into the story was brilliant. The phone is haunted, and we are just asked to believe that, as well as why Roddy is present. Of course, there are a lot of people who DO like Shakespeare, and even some middle schools who put on presentations of his plays, so this would be a great introduction or read along with a Shakespeare unit. It certainly would have made me enjoy reading Romeo and Juliet in the 9th grade a whole lot more!

Cooper's plight as a new kid gives him more reason to run afoul of Brock and need a friend. For some reason, when children move to a new community, they often end up in houses that are haunted, so Korman puts a nice twist on this theme with having Cooper's phone be haunted instead!

Korman could really write just about anything and my students would read it. I am constantly amazed at the number of interesting ideas he can turn into stand alone titles. Not only does he work in a great story about a kid who moves and is almost invisible (think Shusterman's The Schwa Was Here), but he has school drama, a play AND a local villain who is trying to take over a town. The emoji cover is bright and appealing. Readers who are interested in Shakespeare and have read Broach's Shakespeare's Secret or Dionne's The total tragedy of a girl named Hamlet will find it interesting how The Bard is incorporated into modern life, and readers who enjoyed Rylander's Codename Zero or other conspiracy books will like the subplot with Mr. Wulfson.
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