Daring Darleen, Queen of the Screen

Candlewick. Apr. 2020. 368p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781536206197.
Gr 4-6–Nesbet’s new novel has all of the elements of classic old-fashioned adventure tales. Set in 1914, the fast-paced story centers on a motherless 12-year-old star of a silent weekly photoplay and includes a case of mistaken identity, dastardly villains, and shady characters. Darleen, who as a young child was known as Darling Darleen, is now Daring Darleen, a role that allows her to dangle from cliffs and jump between trains. But when Aunt Shirley, the manager of Matchless, the struggling film company behind Darleen’s show, comes up with a fake kidnapping scheme to attract attention to the series, things get complicated. The kidnapping plot goes spectacularly wrong, and what was supposed to be a publicity stunt becomes all too real. Thanks to the bumbling kidnappers, Darleen finds herself sharing the backseat of the getaway car with Victorine Berryman, the orphaned young heiress to a railroad empire. The two girls, who become fast friends, escape together and go through a series of escapades that begin to resemble episodes of Darleen’s photoplays. Darleen is resourceful and smart. It’s her quick thinking, and the support of her new friends, that help save Matchless and Victorine’s fortune. Bonuses include learning some behind-the-scenes tricks of the silent film days, the importance of Fort Lee, NJ, in early filmmaking, and a cameo by Alice Guy Blanché, the pioneering French filmmaker.
VERDICT A rollicking vintage adventure. Recommend to movie fans and readers who enjoy escapades of the past, with lots of twists and tangles.

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