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Shakespeare's Storybook


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Shakespeare's Storybook: Folk Tales That Inspired the Bard retold by Patrick Ryan, illus. by James Mayhew, lets readers in on the secret of what lies behind seven masterpieces such as Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet. For example, King Lear, Ryan argues, has its roots in "Cap-O-Rushes," a tale that begins with the king "asking his daughters how much they love him" then follows the young daughter who has adventures like those of Cinderella; Ryan also mentions some influential events closer to home (Shakespeare's daughters being of a marriageable age; a wealthy Londoner whose daughters try to gain their inheritance by suspicious means). (Barefoot, $19.99 80p ages 8-up ISBN 1-84148-307-9; Sept.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Gr 5-8-In his introductory remarks, Ryan points out that in writing his poetry and plays, Shakespeare liberally adapted from tales he read and heard. Ryan is a liberal adaptor, too. His parallel compendium pairs each of seven stories he has assembled with some discussion of one of Shakespeare's plays. In the opening set, for instance, a two-page commentary on Shakespeare's writing of The Taming of the Shrew introduces "The Devil's Bet," a story of a shrewish wife and a devilish water spirit, cobbled from folklore from several countries. The essays comment variously on elements in the Bard's life; literary works scholars have identified as his progenitors; speculation on traditional oral tales that the playwright may have known; and explanations of themes, characters, and sources in Ryan's accompanying story. The connections here are sometimes tenuous. Readers learn a bit about Shakespeare and the plays, but mostly the book is a framework for the tales. The writing of both essays and stories is uneven, sometimes clear and interesting but often lapsing into the pedagogical or just plain wooden. The appealing layout employs watercolor and pen-and-ink vignettes, borders, decorative devices, and a full-page scene for each story. Young people new to Shakespeare's works might be interested in the background material in the essays, while the stories probably work better in a teller's oral repertoire. Ryan's extensive bibliography cites general works on literature of the time and titles on Shakespeare along with lists of sources from which his stories are derived.-Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

"A marvelous introduction to the collection describes the transformation of storytelling from oral tradition to written word, as well as the background of theater in the 1500s.... On every story's introductory pages, Shakespearean quotes frame the text, and one or more main characters are drawn and labeled to aid the reader in following the plot. Mayhew's detailed watercolors fill the margins of the pages, and each tale features a full-page illustration. A lovely supplement to the Shakespeare oeuvre." -- Kirkus Review "Kirkus Review"

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