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Queen's Own Fool


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About the Author

Jane Yolen (janeyolen.com) needs no introduction! She has been called the "Hans Christian Andersen of children's literature" (Time) and has won countless awards for her wide-ranging body of work--picture books, poetry, nonfiction, middle-grade fiction, YA novels, and novels and poetry for adults. She was also the editor of her own imprints at Harcourt (Jane Yolen Books and the reprint line Magic Carpet Books), where she published best-selling authors Patricia C. Wrede, Bruce Coville, and Anne McCaffrey, among many others. Robert Harris (robert-harris.com) is the author of nine bestselling novels: Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel, Pompeii, Imperium, The Ghost Writer, Conspirata, The Fear Index, and An Officer and a Spy. Several of his books have been adapted to film, most recently The Ghost Writer, directed by Roman Polanski. His work has been translated into thirty-seven languages. He lives in the village of Kintbury, England, with his wife, Gill Hornby.


"La Jardini?re," one of the court jesters to Mary Queen of Scots, is the subject of this collaborative offering from veteran Yolen (Off We Go! and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?, reviewed above) and Scottish debut author Harris. The resulting lengthy first-person novel will appeal to fans of historical sagas, but it lacks the emotional punch that would seem to accompany its interesting subject. A member of a slovenly traveling troupe, young Nicola performs for Queen Mary, wife of the newly crowned King Francis, in Rheims while the royal family mourns the death of Francis's father. Nicola's clever and fearless observations soon win the queen's favor as well as a place at her side: "I am sure it befits a nobleman of France to be to be grand in every sense," she quips, punning on their girth. Nicola remains loyal to the royal through the latter's two subsequent husbands (both nefarious), persecution for her Catholicism in a Protestant Scotland and the queen's being falsely accused of murder. While Nicola's wit sparkles, Mary remains an elusive character. At times the authors seem confined by the facts: several prolonged illness and escape sequences have very little effect on the story's outcome, and the numerous members of court may well blur together for readers. Unfortunately, the curious position of court jesters--intimates with royalty, yet never equals--is only hinted at and never fully explored. Ages 10-14. (May) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Gr 7 Up-This rich and involving novel of Mary Queen of Scots and her court will have readers clamoring to know more about this dramatic period in French and Scottish history. Readers are treated to a fascinating look at royal politics through the eyes of Nicola Ambruzzi, an orphaned performer to whom the queen takes a fancy. Queen Mary appreciates Nicola's wise wit and decides to keep her in the court as a "fool," believing that the girl will always tell her the truth rather than flatter her. After King Francis dies, his mother seizes the throne, and Mary is stripped of her French royalty. She returns to Scotland where she is queen by birth. Two thirds of this novel takes place in Scotland between the years 1560-68 when Queen Mary faced almost constant troubles from the Protestants, her own lords, and her womanizing husband. Yolen and Harris do an excellent job of weaving historical information into the story. The use of Le JardiniŠre, the queen's nickname for Nicola and an actual figure, personalizes the narrative even more and the girl's spiritual and emotional growth make her a flesh-and-blood character. Readers will laugh at Nicola's way with words and forthright manner, and delight in her skill of almost always being able to say the right thing to comfort the Queen or squelch the pompous advisors who surround her. The play of language is another major highlight in the novel. Read this along with E. L. Konigsburg's A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver (Atheneum, 1973) for a compelling look at two doomed queens.-Cheri Estes, Detroit Country Day School Middle School, Beverly Hills, MI Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Praise for Queen's Own Fool

"Based deeply in fact and full of detail both luscious and sordid. . . . [Yolen and Harris] spin a historical tale of great immediacy and impact."--Kirkus Reviews "The reign of Mary Queen of Scots comes alive with distinctively drawn characters . . . The authors immerse the reader in the time period with a powerful tale. This is top-notch historical fiction."--Children's Literature "The authors seamlessly weave fiction and fact together to tell Mary's sad story . . . will surely appeal to fans of historical fiction."--VOYA "This rich and involving novel of Mary Queen of Scots and her court will have readers clamoring to know more about this dramatic period in French and Scottish history. Readers are treated to a fascinating look at royal politics."--School Library Journal

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