Saturday, June 10, 2017

"New Boy" - a bookwrap


"New Boy"

Authored by Tracy Chevalier
Ages - Middle Grade

Editorial Reviews

Praise for New Boy:

“With breathtaking urgency, Chevalier brings Othello to a 1970s suburban elementary school outside Washington, D.C., where the playground is as rife with poisonous intrigue as any monarch’s court… Chevalier’s brilliantly concentrated and galvanizing improvisation thoroughly exposes the malignancy and tragedy of racism, sexism, jealousy, and fear.” —Booklist

“Chevalier smartly uses her narrative as an opportunity to spin a story commenting on racism in America.”—Publishers Weekly 

Othello as a Seventies schoolyard drama? Yes, it works marvellously. The emotions of emerging adolescence are a potent brew, with friendships, rivalries, budding sexuality, and the desire to fit in combining unflinchingly with the racism of the teachers (and some of the pupils). This is an evocative retelling of Shakespeare, and his characters’ interactions and motivations fit surprisingly well into the brutal world of childhood.” Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat

"New Boy not only allows a better understanding of Othello the play, but also the continuing issues of racism in our society. Othello forces readers to consider how terrible it must have been for him to live among such racism in 16th-century Venice. Chevalier’s retelling brings it home and makes us question if our society today is really any better." —National Post


The Hogarth Shakespeare project is a clever-sounding plan to ask well-known authors to write novels based on the Bard’s plays. The series, which started in 2015 with Jeanette Winterson’s revision of “The Winter’s Tale,” has grown to include Howard Jacobson on “Merchant of Venice,” Anne Tyler on “Taming of the Shrew” and Margaret Atwood on “The Tempest.”

 Elizabethan playwrights didn’t hesitate to steal well-known characters and stories. Ironically, Shakespeare wrote his greatest work by nabbing others’ plots, while these brilliant modern authors have written only middling novels by borrowing his.

Now, we have Tracy Chevalier’s “New Boy.”What Chevalier has done is recast the play to illuminate the peculiar trials of our era. If it’s not a classic novel, it’s at least a fascinating exercise.

About the Book...

Tracey Chevalier is the New York Times bestselling author of "Girl with a Pearl Earring".  She has so aptly written the fifth instalment in the Hogarth Shakespeare series.

William Shakespeare's "Othello" is retold as "New Boy."  A daunting task but done beautifully by the author.  Osei Kokote known only as , "O", arrives at his fifth school in just a few short years and immediately becomes the new kid in the playground.  His experience tells him he needs an immediate ally to help him maneuver and navigate his initial entry and as luck has it he encounters Dee.  She is a the most popular girl in the school and there is an immediate chemistry between the two.  

She is smitten instantly:

"O had beautiful straight teeth, Dee thinks, "a flash of light in his dark face that sparked something inside her."

She learns he's from Ghana and his father is a diplomat thus explaining all his moving here and there.  The novel explores the different feelings that the other students and teachers feel toward this new kid that has entered into their well-established, tight, school bubble.  Racial attitudes and tensions are plumbed with lots of dialogue, positive and negative, as how to welcome the only black student into their midst.  

O's biggest challenge comes from a mean-spirited bully named Ian who targets him and wants to destroy his credibility and his new found relationship with Dee.  

Tracy Chevalier successfully weaves jealously, racism, jealousy, fears, and betrayal into her work.  The tragic ending will grip your emotions long after you finish the last page.  I am positive this book would resonate very well with middle-graders and they could grasp and appreciate the modern version of the classic "Othello" very much.  

Storywraps rating - 5 HUGS!!!!!

About the author...

Author Tracy Chevalier was born in October 1962 in D.C. and went to school (high school at least) in Bethesda, Maryland, so seems to have drawn on her own school daze for a novel about sixth-graders in the last month of the 1973-74 school year in a Washington suburban school. Given her (dubious!) choice of putting the story into sixth grade, I think Chevalier crafted the adaptation well, finding a credible substitute for the scarf in the original, and making the reactions of fellow students, as well as teachers and principal, to de facto desegregation plausible. Racism in much more central to Chevalier’s version than to the original.

Though I don’t really believe it, I admire Chevalier’s cramming the story of passions, manipulations, perceived betrayals, and violence into the course of a few hours. I think that sixth graders could read the novel. I’m not sure I’d accuse it of being “written down” for young readers, though it definitely lacks the grandeur of Shakespeare’s language.

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