Book Review: Shakespeare’s Secret by Elise Broach

I picked up this book at a used book store and couldn’t resist. It’s a middle-grade mystery involving Shakespeare and 500-year-old British history. Some of it is factual. Other details were fabricated based on historical reality in order to construct the mystery.

The book follows a sixth grader named hero. Like her sister Beatrice, Hero has been named after a character in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. She is picked on for her name, but she also lacks the self-confidence to do anything about it, and the teasing becomes worse.

Her family has just moved into a home that is shrouded in mystery: there is supposedly a million-dollar diamond hidden somewhere inside (the diamond is the non-factual part of the history). In the meantime, her father is a Shakespeare scholar and loves discussing what Shakespeare’s real identity may be. The novel weaves in some details from the debate/theory that Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, could be the real author of Shakespeare’s plays. The fictional bit involving the necklace plays into that theory.

As an English teacher, I loved the bits of history and British literature that were woven into the book. I’m not sure as a middle-grade reader myself that I would have had the insight to appreciate all the historical details. That said, the story weaves in enough about the social struggles of a sixth grader, budding friendships, and even a bit of a romantic interest, that I think it would hold the interest of any reader, even through the historical bits.

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