Cover of The Romeo and Juliet Code by Phoebe Stone

The Romeo and Juliet Code
by Phoebe Stone
Publisher: Scholastic/Levine,
Hardcover (304 pages) $16.99
Publication Date: January 1, 2011
ISBN 978-0-545-21511-4

Praise for
The Romeo and Juliet Code

A Novel by Phoebe Stone just released January 2011

Starred Review From Publishers Weekly December 6, 2010:

Stone's intricate and lyrical novel, set during WWII, resembles The Secret Garden in all the best ways. Bright and bold Felicity Bathburn Budwig's parents leave her with her father's family in Maine, without an explanation, far from her beloved and endangered home in England. In addition to culture shock, 11-year-old Felicity is frustrated with her quirky and closed-mouthed relatives, including secretive Uncle Gideon and Shakespeare-obsessed Aunt Miami. When Uncle Gideon begins receiving letters from Portugal in her father's handwriting, Felicity and Captain Derek, a 12-year-old recovering from polio, set out to find answers and solve the many mysteries of the "large, dark house full of rifts and lies." Felicity is a deeply empathetic heroine, and as she informs readers of the ways of British children ("British children are usually very brave. I saw many, many of them getting on trains in London... going alone to the countryside to get away from the bombs"), she reveals much about the hardships facing young Londoners during the war. Stone's accomplished tale provides a romantic yet realistic perspective on family, perseverance, and adaptation. Ages 812.

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Starred Review From Horn Book

March/April 2011:

Eleven-year-old Felicity Bathburn Budwig, a Londoner to her core, is deposited in coastal Maine to escape the Blitz; her glamorous parents, Winnie and Danny, drive away in a convertible, leaving her alone with Danny’s family, with no word about when they’ll return. Where they’ve gone–and why–are just two of the many secrets held close by the Bathburn clan. Felicity’s new caretakers include imposing matriarch The Gram, who promptly nicknames her “Flissy,” and The Gram’s two adult children: kindhearted Aunt Miami, who swoons over Romeo and Juliet, and well-meaning but awkward Uncle Gideon, who pines over Winnie, his first love. Also lurking in the household is Derek, an adopted child who lost the use of his arm to polio and refuses to exit his room. Flissy makes short work of his resolve, though, coaxing him out with a puzzle to solve: Uncle Gideon is receiving mysterious letters from Portugal, and Flissy suspects they’re from her parents. The story’s strands satisfyingly come together in a plot full of intrigue, with well-integrated historical and literary references. On top of all that, Flissy is a kick, her ever-so-proper manners and stuffy Briticisms belied by her abundant curiosity and consequent meddling. Disregard the misleading contemporary-looking book jacket and pass the volume along to middle-graders seeking a suspenseful, accessible, and not-too-dangerous World War II spy story. —Elissa Gershowitz

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From The Boston Globe: (Review date: April 3, 2011)

Phoebe Stone’s “The Romeo and Juliet Code’’ is quite simply the best novel for young readers I’ve read since “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.’’ Not that the two books are much alike. Harry Potter is rooted in fantasy, “The Romeo and Juliet Code’’ in reality and history. Rowling recalls British writers like Charles Dickens and J.R.R. Tolkien. Phoebe Stone brings to mind Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, and Frances Hodgson Burnett (author of “The Secret Garden’’ and “A Little Princess,’’ referenced in this novel). The heroine of “The Romeo and Juliet Code’’ is Felicity, Fliss for short, an immensely likable, precocious 11-year-old English girl. She’s dumped off one gray rainy day at her father’s family home in Maine, where for the first time she meets her Uncle Gideon, Aunt Miami, and the grandmother everyone calls The Gram. “How could Winnie and Danny [Fliss’s parents] have left me here with an uncle who was angry at them and a sea captain I knew nothing about tucked somewhere in the house and a door I had to steer clear of and a sky that only rained?”

The house is full of secrets and mysteries — which one can’t reveal without spoiling the adventure of reading. Suffice it to say, the plot involves family skeletons, espionage, codes and decoding, romances, performance, Parcheesi, courage, polio, friendship, and World War II history. When I came to the last paragraph of “The Romeo and Juliet Code,’’ I started over again at page one.

Fliss is a marvelously unreliable narrator, unwise and wise beyond her years: “Children are just supposed to guess at things, and that’s very confusing because some children might guess wrong. They do in school all the time. I remember when Jillian Osgood guessed how many wellies were standing in the hall of the school and she was off by two dozen.” Great novels have been called “a long work of fiction with a mistake in it.” “The Romeo and Juliet Code’’ is no exception. Romeo and Juliet seem arbitrarily tethered to the plot, and Fliss can be a touch fey. But these are minuscule complaints. The book is full of wisdom and affection; subtle insights into human nature (“I was not going to cry. I decided to look up at the ceiling, hoping to find something terribly interesting up there that would help. But ceilings never offer any assistance. They are usually very plain. This one was dark and too far away to see anything except shadows’’); swift character sketches; and a dazzling series of unfolding plot twists and turns. “The Romeo and Juliet Code’’ shows that truth will win out — and that Stone has written a masterpiece for young readers everywhere.—by Liz Rosenberg

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From The Chicago Tribune: (Review date: February 21, 2011)

You'll look at the title and the cover - blue-jean-clad legs, pink sneakers and black sneakers, a blanket on the grass - and think: star-crossed young lovers. And you would be so wrong and so right. The pleasure of this book is its carefully constructed unexpectedness. Instead of hormones and popularity, we get secret codes and intercultural clashes. Twelve-year-old Felicity Bathburn Budwig, raised in 1940s London, is being dropped off in Maine by her parents - whom she calls Winnie and Danny - to stay with her grandmother and assorted other relatives. America isn't in the war yet, but England is being bombed. Felicity is very aware of being a British child, and she frequently writes in her journal that "on the whole, British children are...."forgiving," and "proper." It's a demeanor that Felicity finds harder and harder to maintain. The American family appears eccentric and secretive. Soon, Felicity emerges as a first-rate Nancy Drew investigator. Felicity becomes quite familiar with Frances Hodgson Burnett's "A Little Princess" and "The Secret Garden," and the plot resonates with each of those books, delicately. With clever but restrained writing and an exciting plot, "The Romeo and Juliet Code" is a good read. --by Mary Harris Russell

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From Kirkus Review: (Review date: November 15, 2010)

Eleven-year-old Londoner Felicity has been left by her parents, Danny and Winnie, for the duration of World War II at the mansion her grandmother, uncle and aunt share on a Maine bluff overlooking the sea. Secrets abound, and adults are strangely, sometimes even bizarrely wary of informing her about any of them, although that leaves her feeling isolated and abandoned. Why is Uncle Gideon receiving encoded messages from Danny—all postmarked from Portugal? Who is the mysterious Captain Derek locked away in the upstairs bedroom? What caused the estrangement between Gideon and Danny, and what role did Winnie play? After she joins forces with her 12-year-old male cousin, the two begin to solve the mysteries, one at a time, leaving Felicity—and astute readers—with some astonishing surprises. She is endearingly portrayed, and the back story, so gradually revealed, provides a peek into the depths of the souls of some of the adults. The pacing is deliberately slow, yet Felicity’s growing awareness of how she can help heal the troubled adults makes this an eminently satisfying read. (Historical fiction. 9-13)

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Plus, read new reviews from: The Wall Street Journal and Booklist

 

Find out more about Phoebe Stone's other novels. Take a look at:

The Boy on Cinnamon Street

Deep Down Popular

All the Blue Moons at the Wallace Hotel

Sonata #1 for Riley Red

When the Wind Bears Go Dancing

What Night Do the Angels Wander?

Go Away Shelley Boo!

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The Romeo and Juliet Code
Copyright © 2011 by Phoebe Stone