Cover image for Daring Darleen, queen of the screen
Daring Darleen, queen of the screen
First edition.
Physical Description:
357 pages ; 22 cm
"It's 1914, and twelve-year old Darleen Darling has the most exciting job in the world--she gets to dangle from cliffs and stop moving trains and soar through the sky in runaway balloons! Yes, that's right: Darleen is a hero and a star--in the make-believe world of the movies ... But Darleen's fictional adventures collide with reality when a fake kidnapping intended as a publicity stunt becomes all too real. Now she is in the hands of the dastardly criminals who have just nabbed the famous young heiress Miss Victorine Berrryman. With their lives at stake, can Darleen become the daring heroine she's long pretended to be on film?"-- Provided by publisher.


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When a publicity stunt goes terribly wrong, twelve-year-old Darleen Darling, star of the silent film era, must defeat villains both on screen and off in this edge-of-your-seat adventure.

Lights! Camera! Kidnapping?

It's 1914, and Darleen Darling's film adventures collide with reality when a fake kidnapping set up by her studio becomes all too real. Suddenly Darleen finds herself in the hands of dastardly criminals who have just nabbed Miss Victorine Berryman, the poor-little-rich-girl heiress of one of America's largest fortunes. Soon real life starts to seem like a bona fide adventure serial, complete with dramatic escapes, murderous plots, and a runaway air balloon. Will Darleen and Victorine be able to engineer their own happily-ever-after, or will the villains be victorious?

Author Notes

Anne Nesbet is the author of the historical middle-grade novels Cloud and Wallfish and The Orphan Band of Springdale, as well as three fantasy novels for middle-graders. Her books have received numerous accolades, including multiple starred reviews and appearances on many best book and notables lists. A professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Anne Nesbet lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.)

School Library Journal Review

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 Manche, 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.--Shelley Sommer, Inly School, Scituate, MA

Kirkus Review

Child actor Darleen's reality begins to resemble her weekly silent-film adventures.The once-beloved young "Darling Darleen" is now, in 1914, grown up at 12 and rebranded as "Daring Darleen," starring in weekly adventurous serial silent films. Despite an absent mother, Darleen's life has become routine at Matchless, her family's struggling film studio in Fort Lee, New Jersey, the early hub of American filmmaking. When her family learns of the upcoming debut of the Strand Theatre in Manhattan, they contrive a fake kidnapping of Darleen on opening night to draw publicity to her film series. When the stunt turns into not only a real kidnapping, but the abduction of Victorine Berryman, "the Poor Little Rich Girl herself, orphaned scion of the Berryman railroad empire," real adventures begin. In fittingly episodic chapters packed with smart dialogue, plucky characters, and dastardly villains, the girls must continuously save themselves from kidnappers out to steal Victorine's fortune at any cost. As Darleen continues to uphold her acting duties throughout the shenanigans, readers learn early tricks of the trade, with an appearance by groundbreaking filmmaker Alice Guy Blach adding to the fun; the apparently all-white cast underscores the deep roots of #OscarsSoWhite. True to Darleen's work, the story leaves an open ending for a sequel. The concluding author's note offers even more facts about the silent-film age. Just like Darleena spunky blend of darling and daring. (Historical fiction. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.



Sometimes the real danger is not what you thought it would be at all. Real danger likes to curl itself up small and hide away just out of sight so that it can catch you by surprise. Darleen had not yet had this insight at the time our story begins. She was busy dangling off the edge of a cliff, hundreds of feet above a wild river. What's more, her nose was prickling unpleasantly in the cold, and a masked 
villain was brandishing a knife and threatening to send her plummeting down into the churning waves below. Under ordinary circumstances, that would be enough danger for anyone. But Darleen's circumstances were not in the least bit ordinary.   For instance: it was Darleen's own uncles who had just tied her up in those large and showy ropes and lowered her (feet first, thank goodness) right over the lip of the rocky cliffs, and while they did so, they had said incongruous things like "There you go, dear! Safe as houses!" Safe as houses! Perhaps not, thought Darleen. She was twisting slightly as the rope shifted in the wind (not a pleasant feeling), so she kept catching glimpses of birds sailing above the shining river so very far below her dangling self, and then other glimpses, when the rope turned, of the crinkly rocks of the cliff only inches from her cold nose, and occasionally even third or fourth glimpses of redheaded Uncle Charlie with his megaphone, shouting directions from the out-jutting boulder where her Uncle Dan (whose hair was the color of his voice: a quiet brown) was cranking the little handle on the side of the great box on legs that was the moving-picture camera. A camera makes everything it looks at un-ordinary! And yet Darleen had been doing something quite ordinary and everyday (for her) as she dangled from her rope: she had been worrying about her Papa. Her Papa had made her a tasty bowl of oatmeal and jam that morning. "Strength for my chickee," he liked to say before long filming days. And he had tied a ribbon in her hair with his clever, callused, loving hands. They had eaten their breakfast as they always did, seated at the scarred old table in the kitchen of their tiny house in Fort Lee, under the old photo of Papa and Mama and baby Darleen, all huddled together like birds in the happiest of nests, and her father had said what he always said before they went off to the Matchless studios, across the street (where once there had been cornfields, in Papa's farming years): 
"Feet on the ground, my darling Dar! Don't fly away!" "Yes, Papa," she had promised, as she did every day. "Feet on the ground" was their family motto: Papa's heart had lost too much of itself already when Mama had flown away due to inflammation of the lungs. Sometimes when Darleen was younger and shorter, she would pull a chair over to the kitchen wall and climb up to stare at that photograph of the Darlings taken so many years ago, in 1906 or 1907. The three of them were posed in front of scenery with palm trees painted on it, her Papa in a borrowed jacket and hat, her Mama in a stiff sort of dress, softened by bunches of lace around her throat, and a very happy, very small Darleen perched on a stool in front of them, holding on to her parents' hands. Darleen never spent much time staring at her younger self, who looked like a mound of ruffles topped off with an extra portion of light brown curls. It was the other two faces that called to her so: the one belonging to her Papa, so young and so glad and so obviously trying not to laugh (because it would have blurred the photograph), and the face of her Mama, whose eyes were brimming with love and yet always seemed a little sad, too, as if she already knew that she would fly away one day and leave two hearts aching from the lack of her. You would never think that the woman with the sad and loving eyes had once been a dancer on tightropes in the circus! But she had! She had been Loveliest Luna Lightfoot (that's what the old posters said, rolled up in the corner of the broom closet), and she had come down from those high places to marry Papa and become Darleen's dear Mama and try to grow roses around their little farmhouse in Fort Lee. She had done that out of love: kept her feet on the ground. And now only Darleen was left to stay true to that promise, and to keep the wounded pieces of her father's heart bound carefully together. But it occurred to her now that this current business of dangling from a cliff did not seem much at all like keeping her feet on the ground. She didn't mind on her own behalf -- to be honest, Darleen was tired of everything in her life being always "safe as houses"-- but suddenly she found herself thinking, What would Papa say when he saw the pictures emerging from the chemical vats in his laboratory that evening or tomorrow? This was Episode Six of The Dangers of Darleen, and her father, truth be told, hadn't much cared for any part of Episodes One through Five. He didn't even like her walking on the tops of trains or jumping from car to car. And that had really, truly been safe as houses compared with dangling above the Hudson River. Excerpted from Daring Darleen, Queen of the Screen by Anne Nesbet All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.