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About The Book

“Swiftly moving and utterly engrossing.” —Shelf Awareness

Parents’ Choice Recommended

From Newbery Award–winning author Avi comes the gripping and amazingly true tale of a boy plucked from the gutter to become the King of England.

England, 1486. King Henry VII has recently snatched the English Crown and now sits on the throne, while young Prince Edward, who has a truer claim, has apparently disappeared. Meanwhile, a penniless kitchen boy named Lambert Simnel is slaving away at a tavern in Oxford—until a mysterious friar, Brother Simonds, buys Lambert from the tavern keeper and whisks him away in the dead of night. But this is nothing compared to the secret that the friar reveals: You, Lambert, are actually Prince Edward, the true King of England!

With the aid of the deceitful Earl of Lincoln, Brother Simonds sets out to teach the boy how to become the rightful English king. Lambert has everything to gain and nothing to lose, or so he thinks. Yet in this dangerous battle for the throne, Lambert is not prepared for what’s to come—or for what it really means to play at being a king.

About The Author

Photograph by Katherine Warde

Avi is the author of more than seventy books for children and young adults, including the 2003 Newbery medal winner Crispin: The Cross of Lead. He has won two Newbery Honors and many other awards for his fiction. He lives with his family in Denver, Colorado. Visit him at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (October 17, 2017)
  • Length: 208 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781481437707
  • Grades: 3 - 7
  • Ages: 8 - 12
  • Lexile ® 690L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®

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Raves and Reviews

“Told from Lambert’s point of view, the first-person narrative effectively avoids the complicated political backstory and focuses on the boy’s experiences as he learns the unfamiliar speech, manners, and knowledge and plays his part. Avi . . . again makes the past vivid and personal in this relatively short, accessible book.”

– Booklist, July 1st, 2017

"Though few details exist about the boy’s actual life, the author builds a credible and compelling narrative around known events. . . . An interesting slice of history told by an engaging and believable protagonist. Hand to fans of the author, young Tudor enthusiasts, and readers who enjoy medieval-set fiction."

– School Library Journal, August 2017

“Replete with authentic period details, page-turning brief chapters, and a plot filled with twists, turns, and political intrigue. . . . An appealing protagonist pursuing a grand adventure and struggling with themes of power, pride, and identity will appeal to fans of historical fiction.”

– Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2017

“Short, accessible chapters and candid first-person narration create suspense and strongly evoke the political climate of the era, revealing an odd, mysterious chapter in England’s history.”

– Publishers Weekly, August 7, 2017

“This brief, colorful moment in British history makes an engaging middle-grade novel, all the more so as it recounts what most readers will associate with a trope of wish-fulfillment fantasy—the orphan who learns he’s king—as a historical event. Avi tells the story through Lambert’s retrospective voice, with a direct, accessible narrative style, providing adequate historical detail without bogging the story down.”

– The Horn Book, November/ December 2017

* “It’s a juicy tale upon which to construct a work of historical fiction . . . deftly crafted for readers who care more about a rousing story than a history lesson, tossing them into the action without ever uttering “War of the Roses” . . . With a bit of judicious booktalking, this may be a title to entice new readers to historical fiction.”

– BCCB, Starred Review

“Swiftly moving and utterly engrossing. The Player King's real strength comes in the form of language . . . Avi tells a story that seems too outrageous to be true, but an author's note confirms it all happened. That—the fact behind the fiction—is what truly makes this book a worthy read.”

– Shelf Awareness, October 20, 2017

Awards and Honors

  • Colorado Book Awards Finalist

Resources and Downloads

High Resolution Images

  • Author Photo (jpg): Avi
    Photograph by Katherine Warde
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