by Tina Packer
Tales From Shakespeare
Scholastic, April, 2004.
Hardcover, 192 pages.
Ages 9 and up
Tina Packer, the President and Artistic Director of Shakespeare and Company, has done a heroic job of summarizing Shakespeare's intricate plots and characterizations. She begins with a short summary of the plot of each of the plays, followed by a list of the main players and a note on the setting. What distinguishes this effort from the much appreciated efforts of Charles and Mary Lamb in the nineteenth century is that Ms. Packer deftly inserts well-chosen dialogue from the play and intertwines it in the summary of the action. This has the effect not only of giving the reader the pleasure of some of the play's most memorable lines, but it aids in defining the character as well. Whereas Charles and Mary Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare was difficult and tiresome reading for young readers and no doubt failed with many young minds, Ms. Parker's efforts have a much more likely prognosis for success. Her profound knowledge and extensive experience in working with the young have guided her into a presentation of our most beloved literature that makes the plays approachable and understandable.
Tales From Shakespeare is a stunningly beautiful book. Each play chosen has been illustrated by a different artist, and the interpretations of the main characters are each unique in their own way. Gale de Marcken illustrates A Midsummer Night's Dream with a magical, dreamlike composite portrait of Titania reaching out to a beautiful, sweet faced donkey (Bottom), while surrounded by tiny fairies and flowers. By contrast, Barry Moser's haunting, dark, face of Macbeth evokes a sense of impending evil. Kadir Nelson's brooding and troubled portrait of Othello sets the tone of looming tragedy. These unforgettable illustrations will linger in the mind of the reader long after the story has been read.
Although the very best way to experience Shakespeare's hold on all of us is to act out the plays and speak the lines, reading this beautiful book should be an inspiring introduction to the plays that have come to mean so much to all the world. Tales From Shakespeare, written by a woman who has spent a lifetime acting and educating others about the great truths found in the plays of Shakespeare, is an excellent choice for a young reader.
-Sarah Reaves White
Tales From Shakespeare is available for purchase on Amazon.com
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This review was published in the May-June, 2004 of The Internet Writing Journal.
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