Book Review: A Stage Full of Shakespeare Stories, by Angela McAllister

An illustrated book introducing some of Shakespeare’s best plays in modern language and in a simplified, abridged format to help young readers understand the bones of the story.

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Angela McAllister has produced more than thirty children’s books and her Shakespeare stories are outstanding. I have to admit being a great fan of Shakespeare’s plays and these days, I don’t find the language dry and difficult but I certainly did when I had to study the plays at school.

Having the stories wonderfully told in modern language with a simplified, abridged format makes them a great introduction to these brilliant plays. Yes, we no longer have the richness and depth of Shakespeare’s words but the contemporary language lets young readers understand ‘the bones’ of the story in the original plays, if not all the twists and turns or subtleties. I think this is an advantage, as young people are often deterred by both the complex language and plots of the original plays.

Every tale begins with an original quote and we are introduced to the major characters via cameo-style pictures in Alice Lindstrom’s unique style. She is a freelance illustrator and this is her first children’s book to display her highly-coloured and precisely assembled paper collages. These rich illustrations add an extra dimension to the written word as the vivid details are literally layered into the pictures which reflect the atmospherics of the play and leaves one with the impression of watching a performance.

The twelve stories cover some of the better known of Shakespeare’s plays such as Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Romeo and Juliet, as well as those lesser known, including As You Like It and Othello. The author does not shy away from details of murders, revenge and betrayals which are often the very essence of the plays even though the book is recommended for young readers of only 7 and up.

At the end of the book McAllister has included information on Shakespeare himself, further notes on the plays featured in this book, and a complete list of all his plays. This is a stunning book, in both a narrative and visual sense, which makes these Shakespeare stories accessible and appealing to children. We can only hope that such an introduction will inspire them to read the original texts too.

I highly recommend it.

Reviewed by Jan Kershaw

Rating out of 10:  9

Distributed by: Murdoch Books
Released: September 2018
RRP: $24.99 hardcover

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