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Curiosityby Gary Blackwood
Synopses & Reviews
Intrigue, danger, chess, and a real-life hoax combine in this historical novel from the author of The Shakespeare Stealer
Philadelphia, PA, 1835. Rufus, a twelve-year-old chess prodigy, is recruited by a shady showman named Maelzel to secretly operate a mechanical chess player called the Turk. The Turk wows ticket-paying audience members and players, who do not realize that Rufus, the true chess master, is hidden inside the contraption. But Rufuss job working the automaton must be kept secret, and he fears he may never be able to escape his unscrupulous master. And what has happened to the previous operators of the Turk, who seem to disappear as soon as Maelzel no longer needs them? Creeping suspense, plenty of mystery, and cameos from Edgar Allan Poe and P. T. Barnum mark Gary Blackwoods triumphant return to middle grade fiction.
"In a brisk historical novel set in the early 19th century, a young hunchback named Rufus lands a job that makes use of his chess abilities after his father is thrown into debtors' prison. Rufus controls an automaton called the Turk, secretly crawling inside a cramped cabinet to play matches against challengers at exhibitions. He is practically a prisoner: Maelzel, who owns the exhibits, initially refuses to pay him, and he only lets Rufus leave the workshop at night, fearing someone will discover the Turk is a trick. References to automatons, phrenology, and an early roller coaster give depth and context to Rufus's story, and appearances by historical figures like P.T. Barnum and Edgar Allan Poe (who the author casts in a nefarious role) add fun. Blackwood (Around the World in 100 Days) cleverly blurs the line between machine and human. Trying to throw a match, Rufus gets a 'disturbing feeling... that the Turk has somehow taken over'; later, the boy begins wearing a back brace that makes him 'look a bit mechanical.' The layered narrative should appeal to history buffs, gadget lovers, and fans of The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Ages 9 — 11. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Intrigue, betrayal, and romance surround Widge as we find him back in London and at the center of things, as usual. Queen Elizabeth, Shakespeare's patron, has died, but the new king and his queen love drama-on stage and off. Shakespeare has begun a new play about political intrigue, but real intrigue is close at hand. Someone is stealing from the company, and Shakespeare's scripts must be guarded at all costs-including the one he has given up on and turned over to Widge to finish. Widge finds the glory of being a playwright appealing, especially when there's a pretty girl to impress. But spying is even more exciting!
Readers swept up in the first two adventures about Widge and Shakespeare's players will be enthralled yet again by this third tale with its dramatic twists and turns and an ending worthy of the Bard himself.
Picking up where Around the World in Eighty Days left off, Harry Fogg, the son of Phileas Fogg, has just made a wager of his own. Harry bets that he can drive a steam-powered motorcar all the way around the world in only 100 days. Racing off with three companions, Harry undertakes a grueling journey that will pit him against flash fires, marauders, and even sabotage from within. In the tradition of the Jules Verne classic, this is one historical adventure that will have you racing to the finish!
About the Author
Gary L. Blackwood sold his first story when he was nineteen, and has been writing and publishing stories, articles, plays, novels, and nonfiction books regularly ever since. His stage plays have won awards and been produced in university and regional theatre. Nonfiction subjects he's covered include biography, history, and paranormal phenomena. His juvenile novels, which include WILD TIMOTHY, THE DYING SUN, and THE SHAKESPEARE STEALER, are set in a wide range of times and places, from Elizabethan England to a parallel universe. Several have received special recognition and been translated into other languages. He and his wife and kids live outside Carthage, MO.
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