Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev. (Grades 7+)
Welcome to the Theatre Illuminata.
Here is where the Players live - every character from every play, just waiting until show time. Yes, all the Players live here... and also Bertie. Beatrice Shakespeare Smith, brought to the Theatre when she was a young girl by a woman she barely remembers. She's been raised among the costumes and scenery and the small dramas that pop up among the larger dramas, but the Theater Manager has decided that it's time for her to move on. Unless she can prove herself invaluable to the Theatre, Bertie must leave.
But what Bertie doesn't know is that sinister forces threaten to destroy the Theatre, the only home she's ever known...
Raise your hand if you're a theater geek.
I am actually not, so much. I mean, I enjoy theater as much as the next person, and I'm a huge fan of musicals. But when it comes to Shakespeare, well, I only ever read the Cliff's notes of Macbeth in high school (sorry, Dr. Weick, but it's true). And we never even made it to Hamlet.
Maybe if I'd made it through that beautiful bargain copy of the Complete Works, I'd have caught more of the nuances and understood more of the references (um, I definitely had to Google Ariel...). That said, I still loved Eyes Like Stars.
The first scene starts the book with our inimitable heroine Bertie dying her hair cobalt blue. Right away, we get the sense that she's a feisty young lady who is used to having the run of the theater. Okay, maybe she doesn't know where she came from or who her parents are or why she ended up at this magical place, but it's her home and she's determined to fight for it. And fight for it she will, even more than she bargained for. But not without a little help.
One of my favorite things about the book is Bertie's lively entourage of fairies. Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth, and Mustardseed are by Bertie's side throughout her adventures, providing support and comic relief. I laughed out loud more than once at these pint-sized companions.
There was a lot going on at all times in this novel (much like backstage?), but it might have been more manageable if my theater background was stronger. And don't expect a neatly wrapped up ending... this is the first book of a series (a trilogy?) and while I wouldn't call it a cliffhanger ending, there's definitely conflict left unresolved. Teens will be clamoring for the next book.
If you're a theater buff, pick up this book. If not, pick it up anyway. Who knows? You might be inspired to go back and give Macbeth another shot... ;)
Take a gander at Lisa Mantchev's blog and her prolific Twitter. Please check out the rest of the blogs on the Kidz Book Buzz Eyes Like Stars blog tour:
The 160 Acre Woods
A Christian Worldview of Fiction
A Patchwork of Books
All About Children's Books
And Another Book Read
Becky's Book Reviews
The Friendly Book Nook
Homeschool Book Buzz
Never Jam Today
Reading is My Superpower
Through a Child's Eyes