Winner, Patricia Wrightson Prize for children's literature, New South Wales Premier's Awards 1999Honour Book, Book of the Year Younger Readers, Children's Book Council Book of the Year Awards 1998Shortlisted, National Children's Literature Aw
Odo Hirsch grew up in Melbourne and now lives in London. He is a doctor and a writer of adult fiction. This is his first book for children.
Gr 4-6-Antonio S lives in the tower of an old duke's house with his father, magician and escape artist Scarrabo the Magnificent, and his mother, a doctor. One day he sets out to explore what he thinks must be one of the building's secret passageways. Instead, he finds a hole through which he can see into the apartment of his neighbor, Theodore Guzman, a once-famous stage actor who is now a recluse. Intrigued by what he sees there, and hoping to lure Mr. Guzman out of hiding, Antonio decides to put on a play, and he and his eclectic group of friends and classmates create one. As the performers explore their own talents, Antonio is given a glimpse into the private world of Mr. Guzman, where he learns the limitless possibilities of his own imagination. What begins with all the elements of a fantasy novel turns into a fairly mundane story of a child who meets an aging actor and falls in love with theater. Ultimately, though, Hirsch does a good job of drawing readers into the story. While many of the other characters serve mostly to advance the plot, Antonio is fully developed as a clever, thoughtful, and creative boy. The parts of the book describing how he and his friends develop and perform their work make the process seem like a lot of fun, and might inspire kids to create plays of their own.-Ashley Larsen, Woodside Library, CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
This comical, occasionally slapstick novel by Australian author Hirsch (Bartlett and the Ice Voyage; Hazel Green) offers readers a glimpse of the work and serendipity required to pull off a theatrical performance. Young Antonio S, the son of a Houdini-esque father and a doctor mother, resides in a sprawling castle (along with several other families) that once belonged to a duke and brims with fanciful legends and secret passageways. The 10-year-old hero, a fledgling showman, "could hop backward in a perfectly straight line with his eyes closed and his arms folded in front of him, and he could tell whether a person had measles just by looking inside his or her mouth." When Antonio learns that his elderly neighbor, Theodore Guzman, was one of the greatest actors of his time, he undertakes to attract the man's attention by writing and performing a play called "Four Stories," which highlights an eccentric quality of each of his four friends ("You'd better get a part where someone has to eat a lot" says his best friend Ralph, known for his insatiable appetite). The play acts as catalyst in transforming these characters' misfit qualities into artistic strengths. Once Antonio and Guzman meet, however, the novel veers into a new direction and, despite the wisdom of the elder actor, many readers may regret that some of Antonio's peers are left behind. A light-hearted offering for aspiring thespians. Ages 8-12. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.