First line: “My noble master, Prospero, is a clever magician.”
Summary: This book retells William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest as a Children’s picture book. If you haven’t read Shakespeare’s play by the same name, here is a quick overview: Prospero, duke of Milan, is overthrown by his jealous brother, Antonio. Alonso and his brother Sebastian help Antonio accomplish this. Antonio puts Prospero and his daughter in a boat and casts them out to sea. The boat washes ashore an island where an evil witch and her son rule. He rescues the spirit (our narrator) from the witch, then uses him for his own gain. Years pass. One day a boat carrying the people who wronged Prospero passes by. Prospero calls on the spirit (our narrator) to seek revenge on them– not to kill but to scare, and possibly abandon on an island, the way his has been abandoned. The spirit and prospero try to manipulate the island’s inhabitants to a fate of their choosing.
Ratings: Maggie gives this picture book 6 out of 10 stars. Conor did not hear this story. Mama Lala also gives this picture book 6 out of 10 stars.
Their Thoughts: I shared this book with my oldest, Maggie. She is nine. She liked that “it was magical”, and “it was colorful”. She had trouble understanding the book also because “my age group doesn’t read those kinds of things.” She had trouble connecting with the book, she said.
My Thoughts: The illustrations are beautiful. This retelling, though shortened for the benefit of a younger reader, still seems out-of-range for most picture book readers. I’d say this one is more for the parents, than the children it was intended to be read to. That said, Ellinas did a decent job of shortening the story to important plot points, in an understandable language for children.
First line: A boy is coming down a flight of stairs.
Summary: In 1580, in England, a young tutor named William Shakespeare meets the daughter of his employers. She is a strange girl who wanders the fields with her falcon on her arm. Against the wishes of their families they marry. Agnes has a reputation as a healer. People flock to her for cures. However, when their son, Hamnet, falls ill to the bubonic plague there is little she can do for the boy. With the heartache and loss Shakespeare writes one of his most epic plays.
My Thoughts: This book was beautifully written. It was almost poetic in its writing and style. I listened to most of this and the reader was so soothing. I think this would be a perfect book for book clubs, fans of historical fiction or literary fiction.
This brings to life a major part of Shakespeare’s life, his family. Very little is written or talked about since his most famous times were in London and on the stage. I loved learning about Agnes (or Anne) and their children. Life was so simple back then but also very tragic as well. I knew very little even though I have read several of his plays and watched many documentaries and movies of his life. The fact that we can still see some of the places he lived in Stratford-Upon-Avon is astounding since over 400 years have passed.
My favorite chapter, and the one that will most likely stick with me, was the one about the flea. O’Farrell spends a whole chapter on the flea that brought the plague to the home of William Shakespeare and eventually killed his only son. It is hard to imagine how something that started thousands of miles away could affect so many. The tale was fascinating. Who would ever consider writing about the flea?! It is genius.
Some of the classics are hard to read. Either we do not understand the language or the story is not as fast paced as the latest thriller. However, there are so many great things about them. They have survived the times. The stories still speak to readers today. One of greatest is the bard, William Shakespeare. I read several plays during high school English, my favorite being Hamlet. Do you have trouble with Shakespeare? Trust me sometimes I do too. Check out Alyssa’s blog post about her recent interest in the works of Shakespeare.
Summary: When Katherine’s father is killed in front of her she vows that she is going to take revenge on the person responsible, Queen Elizabeth I. She travels to London dressed as a boy to meet with fellow Catholic conspirators to hatch a plan to kill the Protestant queen. Toby, an agent of the queen, is on the lookout for any assassination plots. When he teams up with William Shakespeare and his company of players, he sets a trap for the would-be assassins. However, Katherine and Toby are drawn to each other complicating both of their missions.
Highlights: Assassination plots and William Shakespeare?! Yes please! I found the story to be lots of fun from the very beginning. I enjoyed both of the main characters. Katherine is a strong willed young girl who is determined to avenge her father. Toby is a heartbroken playwright working as a spy for the queen. I loved watching Katherine throwing off her inhibitions as she took on the role of a man. She gets to see things that women would not be privy to normally. As their relationship progresses I got more and more nervous about how the story would end. This story was fit for Shakespeare with the mistaken identities, daring murder attempts and tragic love.
Lowlights: I would have loved more Shakespeare. Any time he entered the story it became even better! His patron even mentioned how he liked to make up words, which he does throughout the story. Such a nice little historical tidbit to add into the dialog.