The Shakespeare Stealer Series by Gary Blackwood.
Dutton Children's Books/Penguin Putnam Inc: NY.

The Shakespeare Stealer ©1998: Widge as an orphan turned apprentice has learned the skill of writing a form of shorthand. He can write as fast as a person talks and translate it after. This would be an invaluable skill to someone who wants to steal Shakespeare's new play, Hamlet. That is what he has been ordered to do, and when he is caught he devises another plan to steal the play. This involves apprenticing to be a player, and in so doing, he finds the first place he has ever belonged.

More secrets are exposed as the story unfolds. The story is full of colorful characters, drama and adventure-and a bit of masquerading as well. This trilogy is one of the best for this reading level (6th-8th).

Shakespeare's Scribe ©2000: The Black Plague has come to London again. As a result Queen Elizabeth has banned all public gatherings in the city. The Lord Chamberlain's Men take to the road to perform in towns around the country. Many obstacles are presented in their travels as would be expected. A new boy is hired for female parts as Sander stays in London. Widge finds himself struggling to get along with Sal Pavy as he gradually loses parts to him. Even his new duties as Shakespeare's scribe cannot console him. In the region of Widge's birth, he meets a man who claims a link to his family and may also drive a wedge btween Widge and Shakespeare's troupe.

Shakespeare's Spy ©2003: In this last book Widge becomes James. He falls in love for the first time only to have the girl go out of his life again. Evidence is found of a thief within their troupe, and to prove his innocence James becomes a spy in their rival's troupe. He also tries his hand at script-writing and agonizes over the result.

A cunning woman (fortune teller) tells Widge, Sam, and Sal their fortunes. She says Sam will become a traitor. She at first sees nothing for Sal, but then she sees a rough hand gripping him and a knife at his throat. She predicts Widge will come into a fortune. Later she predicts he will cause someone to die and someone to come back to life. All of the predictions will come true-but not necessarily in expected ways.

As with the other books, there is no shortage of action and plot twists.

related-theater, Black Plague, William Shakespeare, Great Britain-history, orphans, actors

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