A Murder for Her Majesty by Beth Hilgartner. Alice witnesses the murder of her musician father in Elizabethan England, and she runs away to hide from his murderers in York. There she becomes friends with the boys in the cathedral choir and joins the choir herself disguised as a boy. Can she remain hidden even though one of the murderers, Father Cooper, works at the cathedral, and even though the murder may have been committed by order of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth herself?
Me: Are you enjoying our read aloud book?
Betsy-Bee (10): Yes. It always seems as if these books are sort of boring at the beginning, but then when you get into them they get more interesting. This one is more interesting because it’s about kids, not grownups.
Me: We haven’t quite finished the book. What do you think is going to happen?
BB: Well, Alice just got kidnapped by Father Cooper and the others, and she told them that she told her music teacher everything. So they’re going to keep her alive until they check on that. But she really told Geoffrey about everything, and Geoffrey and the other choir boys are going to tell Master Kenton. I don’t think that Master Kenton will believe them at first, but they’ll do something to make him believe. Then, they’ll have a grown-up to help them rescue her.
Me: What do you think will happen, Z-baby?
Z-Baby (8): In all those books like that there’s always a happy ending.
BB: Everybody know that it’s going to be a horrible book otherwise.
Me: Don’t bad things ever happen in books?
BB: Yeah, sometimes bad things happen, but it always turns out happy in the end. Unless it’s a horrible book.
Me: Well, if you already know how it will end, then what makes it interesting?
Z-baby: Well, all the chapters end with this Big Wondering, and you want to know what’s going to happen next.
BB: And if you start a book you have to finish it to know for sure what will happen. But some books are so boring that you don’t even care about what will happen next.
Me: What do you think is the most importatn part of this book, A Murder for Her Majesty, the characters, the plot (story) or the ideas?
BB: I think it’s a kind of good idea because it’s about a girl who dresses up like a boy to save her life because she’s being chased by murderers. I would never think of that idea, but if it was to save my life, then it would be scary, but I would do it.
Me: Do you think you could get away with pretending to be a boy?
BB: I’ve tried before, and I don’t think so. If it were a boy dressing me up to look like a boy then maybe I would. Maybe it’s because I have long hair.
Me: Well, she cut her hair. Would you cut off your hair to save your life?
BB: I’d do almost anything to save my life.
Me: What about the setting for this book? It’s in a cathedral. Have you ever been in a cathedral?
BB: No, it’s a big, big church.
Me: Would like to visit a cathedral?
BB: Only with my friends.
Me: What about singing in a cathedral choir?
BB: I only like dancing in front of people, not singing.
Me: And what’s your favorite word that you learned from the book?
BB (retorted): It’s NOT my favorite word. I get annoyed by that word “retorted” because the author uses it over and over. It’s weird.
Me: Anything else?
BB: Well, I wouldn’t exactly feel very comfortable in a house full of boys. I’d like at least one girl.
Z-baby: All I’d say is that it’s a good book.
If you read closely, you can glean from our conversation that A Murder for Her Majesty has a good, attention-getting plot and premise. The writing is OK, but the overuse of adverbs and synonyms for “said” is a bit annoying. And the setting is interesting. It’s also set around Christmas time, so it would be a good book for reading aloud in December, particularly if Elizabethan times were on the history agenda.