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New Boy by Tracy Chevalier
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In New Boy, the latest and quite possibly the greatest in the Hogarth Shakespeare collection, famed author Tracy Chevalier transforms the Shakespearean tragedy into an elementary school saga, rife with nostalgia and heartbreak. Chevalier expands upon the themes of Othello- racism, jealousy, and revenge, to name a few- from the perspective of a group of 1970’s sixth graders.

Osei Kokote has found himself, once again, in the unfortunate position of new boy, a position he is all too familiar with, being the son of a traveling diplomat. But beyond the normal anxieties involved with leaving behind friends, family, and all that is familiar, Osei must deal with being the only student of color at his new school in Washington, D.C. Having been through the arduous process before, he assesses the group of kids spread out on the playground before him, makes various assumptions and predictions, and then begins to plan his survival, in the way of alliances, avoidances, and sheer luck.

I thoroughly enjoyed New Boy, despite being hesitant of the age group focused upon. I’m not a huge YA reader and feared I wouldn’t connect, but Chevalier does a beautiful job of slowing time way down and capturing the magic of fleeting youth. The delights and triumphs, the failures and despair are all chronicled from the viewpoints of the young characters who are just enough like Shakespeare’s cast to identify but possess a wholeness all their own. I highly recommend adding this to your collection of literary fiction and I look forward to the next work Hogarth Shakespeare puts forth.

*- I received a copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. ( )
  Bookwormshawn | Jun 14, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
a modern retelling of Othello. Takes place on a playground among sixth graders and their teachers. Works surprisingly well, though I had to look up the story of Othello as I was not familiar with it. ( )
  dianne47 | Jun 12, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I have been enjoying the Hogarth Shakespeare series, and so was happy to receive this from the Early Reviewers program. Tracy Chevalier translates the story of Othello into the world of a 1970's school playground, and Osei, the son of a Ghanaian diplomat stands in for Othello.

This book didn't completely work for me, and at first I thought that it was because having children as protagonists was too far-fetched. But then, thinking back to my own childhood, and the emotions and actions of these kids seemed realistic. (until the end, when Osei turns on Dee, which made no sense). And the casual racism of the era also seemed accurate.

I realized that the plot of Othello is just incredible weird and unlikely. So, it's amazing, actually, that Shakespeare made it work, and that Chevalier almost makes it work here. ( )
  banjo123 | Jun 10, 2017 |
Originally drawn to the cover and description of the novel, New Boy, by Tracy Chevalier, best known for her novel-adapted-to-a-film, The Girl with a Pearl Earring, I delved into the book understanding the dichotomous theme of racism I was expected to experience.

Though the narrative was written with a juvenile tone to depict the voices relative to the characters’ ages in the book—11-year-old boys and girls—I found the writing far too simplistic to carry the weight of its serious theme.

From the stark and polar opposites in culture found in the Dee, the girl with golden hair, and Osei, the new boy from Ghana, to the overt simplicity of a school and playground setting, the story seemed too far-fetched in is microcosmic style to its grand attempt to adapt its story based on Shakespeare’s own Othello.

The key players in the novel from Dee and Osei as already mentioned to the attention-seeking Blanca, the popular and privileged Casper, the shy, yet insightful, Mimi, the following brute, Rod, and the manipulative and conniving character, Ian—together form a cast of characters that puppeteer the racial tensions in the novel.

While its narrative was written primarily with what seemed to be towards a young adult audience, the overt racism in the book was difficult to read even with the understanding that the setting takes place in the early 1970’s when racism was still prevalent and more obvious in western society.

Even with the main character’s privilege in society as a son of a diplomat whose status affords his family the opportunity to live in an expensive high rise building with the security and service of a doorman, as well as the opportunity to attend a prestigious school with children of privilege; the unfortunate and unfair catalyst of affliction for Osei is rooted in others’ perception, racism, and discrimination against him because of his skin colour and culture.

It’s emphasized in the novel that Osei is not only the new boy in school with only a month left until the end of the year, but that he is also the first and only black boy in attendance amidst a population of white teachers and students.

To read the rest of my review, you're welcome to visit my book blog, The Bibliotaphe Closet:

Until next time,
Happy reading! ( )
  ZaraD.Garcia-Alvarez | Jun 6, 2017 |
Blog post due: May 15, 2017
  ZaraD.Garcia-Alvarez | Jun 6, 2017 |
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