New Boy [Hogarth Shakespeare] by Tracy Chevalier [in Library Journal]
Internationally lauded for historical novels (Girl with a Pearl Earring), Tracy Chevalier takes a surprising narrative path as she returns over the Pond to her capital birth-city (she’s been British-domiciled for decades) with the Bard in tow: Chevalier’s privileged fifth graders play out Othello in a suburban Washington, DC, elementary school in 1974.
The star here is narrator Prentice Onayemi, whose melodious, wide-ranging, gender-adaptive narration steals the show. The eponymous “new boy” is Osei, a diplomat’s son originally from Ghana, who enters his fourth new school in six years. He, too, is “a diplomat of sorts”; as the only black student – and notably cosmopolitan with previous stopovers in London, Rome, and New York – Osei is no stranger to racism, both casual and targeted, especially from adults who should know and do better. He’s befriended by popular girl Dee, and their burgeoning relationship quickly catches the envious attention of bully Ian, setting in motion inevitable consequences of childhood cruelty. That handkerchief? Think pink pencil case.
Verdict: Onayemi unmistakably enhances what’s on the page, proving again that the Bard is better performed than silently read. Libraries already invested in this growing updated-by-famous-contemporary-authors “Hogarth Shakespeare” series will not want to miss adding the latest.
Review: modified from “Audio,” Library Journal, October 15, 2017