Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tales from Shakespeare : Illustrated!

I'm always on the lookout for "children's" versions of the plays that don't lose the essence of the original or dumb it down to the point that my kids will barely realize that it's Shakespeare.  So I was more than pleasantly surprised when Bardfilm sent me a scanned page out of Tales from Shakespeare by Marcia Williams.

Unfortunately I do not have pictures from inside the book (I don't feel that I have permission to republish the single scanned page that I do have), but I can point you to this other blog that reviewed this series, with pictures.

Imagine a simple novelization of the play, first of all.  Maybe half a dozen small paragraphs per page.  Now, for each paragraph, you get an illustration of what's going on.  But wait, it gets better!  Within the illustration, the characters are speaking lines from the original!  Very cool way to do the whole "original text side-by-side with modern translation" thing.
But then it gets better!  Decorating up and down the margins of each page are an audience, each sitting in their own box seat, shouting over the "performance".  Sometimes it's just random color ("This is too spooky, tell me when it's over!" someone shouts from the side of Macbeth), or actual hints about context ("That's not Aliena, that's Celia in disguise!" is shouted at As You Like It).

When they arrived, my older geeklet jumped right in (to Antony and Cleopatra, no less!)  "How do I read this?" she asked, overwhelmed by the amount of text on the page.

"Read the paragraph parts," I told her, "Like you're reading a story.  The pictures will show you what's going on.  Once you understand the story, you can see what they were saying to each other in the original Shakespeare."

"What about the people up and down the side?" she asked.

"They're there for hints," I told her.  "As you read down the side, you may catch them asking the same questions that you're asking yourself, like how come the Duke doesn't recognize his own daughter, even if she is disguised, in As You Like It.  You can ignore them if they're not helping."

She read A&C in a matter of minutes.  I like that each book has seven plays, so there's lots of opportunity to experience plays they might otherwise never get to enjoy.  Many times I'll find a single play done like this, or a "great tragedies" edition.  In this volume alone we got Romeo and Juliet, Dream, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Macbeth, Winter's Tale and The Tempest.  When I write it out like that I realize that my kids know all of those stories, except Julius Caesar. ;)  More Tales provides us with As You Like It, King Lear, Much Ado about Nothing, Antony and Cleopatra, Twelfth Night, Merchant, and Richard III.  More there to work with.

I'm very glad I found these.  The illustrations are nothing to write home about, but I'm very excited about the format.

This year's Shakespeare Day Celebration is sponsored in part by Shakespeare Is Universal: Shakespeare truly is for everyone, and nothing demonstrates that sentiment better than his most famous quote of all, translated here into languages from around the world.   In celebration of Shakespeare's birthday, show that you believe his works are just as relevant, powerful and important as they've ever been!


amd5gg said...

I'll have to check it out. I love to read Shakespeare to children!

Heather Sanderson said...

I introduced my eldest daughter to these books when she was just 3 years old. She's now 17 and still enjoys Shakespeare. There is also a book with a collection of Charles Dickens stories that is equally fabulous.