In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Shakespeare storytelling

Dear Annie,

A Winter's Tale -- one of the odder Shakespeare plays.  Interesting place to start.  Bruce Coville has also done five other long picture book retellings of the bard.  People tend to buy them when they're taking a child to a Shakespeare play for the first time.  I like the idea of separating a book telling the story from an actual performance, as you did with Eleanor.  There are two collections of stories that might work for her.

The first, from Barefoot Books (which brought us a great collection of poetry) is
Shakespeare's Storybook
. It first came out as the picture book-size volume we see here, but they've recently put out a smaller edition the size of a chapter book.  The subtitle is "Folk Tales that Inspired the Bard."  Author Patrick Ryan retells seven folktales and stories in circulation in the 16th century that, according to his introduction, Shakespeare used for his plays.  (John, father of Annie, and Shakespeare scholar -- is this accurate?)  The plays that resulted are The Taming of the Shrew, Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It, Hamlet, King Lear and A Winter's Tale.  In contrast to the lines you quoted, I offer the opening paragraphs of "The Flower Princess," precursor to A Winter's Tale:
   There once was a young king of Sicilia who was selfish, restless and hard-hearted.  His people wished he would fall in love and settle down.  But the king said this would never happen.
   Yet one day the king met a young country girl.  "You're so beautiful!" he exclaimed. 
   That she was, and as kind and generous as the king was mean-spirited.  His heart softened and he fell in love with her.  Before long, the king asked her to be his wife.
There's a baby daughter, and then of course bad things happen, followed by good things in the neighboring kingdom of Bohemia.  The stories are the inspirations for Shakespeare: he took off from them and went in other directions.  Every page is beautifully illustrated by James Mayhew, and they're a good starting point to talk about the plays.

Then there's the lovely
Tales from Shakespeare
by Tina Packer.  It's a more traditional re-telling of the plays, with occasional real quotes thrown in.  It includes A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, King Lear, As you Like It, The Tempest, Othello, Twelfth Night, and Romeo and Juliet.  Each 15-or-so page story has one full-page picture by a different major children's illustrator (Mark Teague, Mary Grandpre, and Kadir Nelson, to name three).  Here's a bit of As You Like It, when Rosalind (in drag) confronts Orlando:
..."I am he that is so love-shaked, Orlando admitted.  "I pray you tell me your remedy.  Did you ever cure any so?"
  "Yes, one, and in this manner," Rosalind said.  "He was to imagine me his love.  I would now like him, then loathe him; now entertain him, then forswear him; now weep for him, then spit at him.  Thus would I cure you, too, if you would but call me Rosalind and come every day to woo me."
   Orlando considered this strange proposal.  He did not wish to be cured of his love for Rosalind, but this would give him a chance to practice wooing her.  Besides, this boy seemed like jolly company, and everyone else in the dukes' court was tired of hearing about his beloved.  And in some strange way, the boy even looked like fair Rosalind.  "Now, by the faith of my love, I will, good youth."
The quotes are chopped down from the real speeches, but close.  They give a feel for the language.

Now I must get back to store work: my orders for advent calendars (which will go on sale in November) are due in tomorrow.  We plan ahead in this business...



No comments:

Post a Comment