Playing Juliet

212p. Sky Pony. Nov. 2015. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781634501835.
Gr 4–6—In this charming story featuring a relatable narrator and action-driven plot, Beth dreams of one day playing the female lead in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Trouble looms, however, when Beth's beloved children's theater threatens to close. While undoubtably appealing to any child looking to learn more about the theater in general, the book also offers a thorough immersion into the world of children's theater. The emotional core of the story comes from Beth's relationships with her best friend and her parents. The friendships portrayed are realistic and not overly dramatic. While Beth occasionally seems wise beyond her years, her concerns and fears feel real. Her superstitions surrounding the theater are relatable and provide an opportunity for Wetzel to discuss the history of theater. Additionally, family issues, such as Beth's desire to please her parents and Beth's friend's experience of divorce and shared parenting, are portrayed authentically and will resonate with many readers. The epigraphs at the start of each chapter provide unique opportunities for foreshadowing. This feature both drives the plot forward and draws readers in. An explanation of the epigraphs at the book's conclusion allows deeper understanding of these literary devices and enriches the text even further.
VERDICT A solid story with surprising emotion, this novel is sure to appeal to theater lovers and neophytes alike.

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