cover image Daring Darleen: Queen of the Screen

Daring Darleen: Queen of the Screen

Anne Nesbet. Candlewick, $18.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-5362-0619-7

In 1914 New Jersey, Daring Darleen, 12-year-old star of silent film adventure serials, makes the same promise to her dear Papa each day before going to work at the family’s Fort Lee film studios: “Feet on the ground.” It’s become a family motto since Darleen’s tightrope walker mother died, but following a dangerous moment of high-altitude filming in the Palisades, Darleen feels full of life, a development that alternately thrills and horrifies her. She doesn’t have much time to ponder that dichotomy, however; to capitalize on a Manhattan theater’s opening night and wipe out the filmmaking family’s debts, Darleen becomes embroiled in a publicity stunt. But the scheme—a phony kidnapping—goes somewhat awry when she is actually taken alongside Victorine Berryman, a newly orphaned heiress. The two very different girls work together to stay one step ahead of their kidnappers as real life begins to resemble a photoplay, complete with a runaway hot air balloon and dastardly villains. Film studies professor Nesbet writes her intrepid heroine with swashbuckling verve and sweet familial affection, incorporating extensive knowledge of early-20th-century filmmaking into a well-paced, gripping tale of staying true to oneself while stretching limitations. An author’s note offers further historical context. Ages 8–12. Agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary. (Apr.)