word craft


The Player King

What’s this book about?

Read an amaz­ing­ly true tale of a boy plucked from the gut­ter to become the King of Eng­land.

Eng­land, 1486. King Hen­ry VII has recent­ly snatched the Eng­lish Crown and now sits on the throne, while young Prince Edward, who has a truer claim, has appar­ent­ly dis­ap­peared. Mean­while, a pen­ni­less kitchen boy named Lam­bert Sim­nel is slav­ing away at a tav­ern in Oxford—until a mys­te­ri­ous fri­ar, Broth­er Simonds, buys Lam­bert from the tav­ern keep­er and whisks him away in the dead of night. But this is noth­ing com­pared to the secret that the fri­ar reveals: You, Lam­bert, are actu­al­ly Prince Edward, the true King of Eng­land!

With the aid of the deceit­ful Earl of Lin­coln, Broth­er Simonds sets out to teach the boy how to become the right­ful Eng­lish king. Lam­bert has every­thing to gain and noth­ing to lose, or so he thinks. Yet in this dan­ger­ous bat­tle for the throne, Lam­bert is not pre­pared for what’s to come—or for what it real­ly means to play at being a king.

Story Behind the Story

Part 1: When one reads his­to­ry, one learns about big events and impor­tant peo­ple, such as the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion, or, say, Napoleon. But if you read the foot­notes in those his­to­ries you can learn about the indi­vid­u­als who lived in those his­tor­i­cal moments. You learn about British prison ships in New York City, where more peo­ple died by mal­treat­ment than on the rev­o­lu­tion­ary battlefields.

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Part 2: If you read history—as I do for the stories—it is more often than not pop­u­lat­ed by big peo­ple, kings, queens, gen­er­als, sen­a­tors and pres­i­dents. Such peo­ple do alter his­to­ry, some­times for the bet­ter, or worse. But embed­ded in such tales are countless—if only passing—references to oth­ers, small folk.

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“Based on his­tor­i­cal fact, the nov­el strong­ly depicts Lambert’s emo­tions: his ini­tial con­fu­sion, his grow­ing excite­ment over the prospect of gain­ing wealth and pow­er (although he knows he has no true claim to the throne), and his fear when he real­izes that he is being used as a pawn in a dead­ly game. Avi’s short, acces­si­ble chap­ters and can­did first-per­son nar­ra­tion cre­ate sus­pense and strong­ly evoke the polit­i­cal cli­mate of the era, reveal­ing an odd, mys­te­ri­ous chap­ter in England’s his­to­ry.” (Pub­lish­ers Week­ly)

“Nar­ra­tor John Keat­ing’s breezy tone and British accent bring authen­tic­i­ty to this Tudor sto­ry by Avi, king of chil­dren’s his­tor­i­cal fic­tion. Young Lam­bert is plucked from his life as a kitchen boy in a tav­ern cel­lar, where he lives ‘like a rot­ten turnip,’ and with break tak­ing speed finds him­self seat­ed on the Eng­lish throne. Keat­ing keeps Lam­bert’s per­spec­tive con­vinc­ing­ly light and aston­ished with­out mak­ing him sound too young. In stark con­trast, Keat­ing’s voice booms with hos­til­i­ty when he’s speak­ing as any of the hand­ful of adults who con­trol Lam­bert’s world. Keat­ing cap­tures Lam­bert’s humor and good nature and adds vivac­i­ty to Avi’s oth­er­wise straight­for­ward prose. Even when the action descends into bloody bat­tle, Keat­ing pro­vides just the right lev­el of inten­si­ty for a sto­ry intend­ed for younger ears.” (a review of the audio book, S.T.C. © AudioFile 2018)

“Told from Lambert’s point of view, the first-per­son nar­ra­tive effec­tive­ly avoids the com­pli­cat­ed polit­i­cal back­sto­ry and focus­es on the boy’s expe­ri­ences as he learns the unfa­mil­iar speech, man­ners, and knowl­edge and plays his part. Avi, whose New­bery Award-win­ning Crispin was set in four­teen­th­cen­tu­ry Eng­land, again makes the past vivid and per­son­al in this rel­a­tive­ly short, acces­si­ble book. An author’s note reveals what is known of the actu­al Lam­bert Sim­nel, whose sto­ry inspired the nov­el.” (Book­list)

“An inter­est­ing slice of his­to­ry told by an engag­ing and believ­able pro­tag­o­nist. Hand to fans of the author, young Tudor enthu­si­asts, and read­ers who enjoy medieval-set fic­tion.” (School Library Jour­nal)

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