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Picture Book Review – The Tempest

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE THE TEMPEST

Retold by Georghia Ellinas

Illustrated by Jane Ray

(Candlewick Press; $17.99, Ages 6-9)

 

The Tempest retold cover

 

Starred Reviews – Kirkus, School Library Journal

 

Introducing classics such as William Shakespeare’s The Tempest to young kids seems both important and, well, hard. Let’s face it, adults sometimes need a synopsis when seeing one of his plays. However, this lovely picture book by Georghia Ellinas successfully conveys the heart of the story without overwhelming young kids. Told from Ariel’s viewpoint, the book opens with the irresistible line, “Can you do magic?” The androgynous Ariel goes on to explain that they are a spirit of the air and made of magic—how awesome is that?!

 

TheTempest int.1
THE TEMPEST. Text copyright © 2019 by the Shakespeare Globe Trust. Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Jane Ray. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, London.

 

Boosted by Jane Ray’s lovely watercolor images, this retelling comes to life. We feel for Ariel when they are imprisoned in a tree and crying out for help. The scene with Miranda and Caliban delights me the most. Monstrous Caliban’s moping darkness is offset by Miranda as a young girl, brightly dressed and playing in a tree.

 

The Tempest int.2
THE TEMPEST. Text copyright © 2019 by the Shakespeare Globe Trust. Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Jane Ray. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, London.

 

Though full of lively images and fantasy, The Tempest’s key message remains “forgiveness is greater than revenge,” an important reminder for an audience this age who may struggle with conflict resolution. I’m happy to see Candlewick is continuing with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, another favorite, out in April 2021 by this same talented writer and illustrator duo. Available for pre-order now.

 

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Let’s Get Classical

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I have always loved classical music CDs for young children, and there’s nothing better than one that comes with a book, like this one. Listen to the Birds: An Introduction to Classical Music, ($16.95, The Secret Mountain Books, Ages 7-9) is unique in every way; I’ve never seen another book like it.

Each two-page spread of the book features a description of a different type of bird as it corresponds to one of the 20 glorious classical music selections on the CD. Children learn about the correlation between the sounds of natural birdsongs and the melodies of different classical masterpieces.

The book, written by concert pianist, Ana Gerhard and nicely illustrated by Cecilia Varela, doesn’t stop there. It also includes a listening guide for children to learn more about the instruments as well as birdsongs in each piece. There are also introductions to the composers, a wonderful glossary of musical terms and even a timeline of the composers from 1485 to the present. From Vivaldi to Tchaikovsky, from Handel to Mozart, all the greats are here to enjoy. The book and CD are of the highest quality, so it will certainly stand the test of time and can be used over and over again.

What’s so terrific about this book is that it is just as enlightening for parents as it is for children. Little ones who are too young to understand the details of a particular composer or even a species of bird, can certainly feel moved (and let’s face it hopefully feel sleepy, too). And even more importantly, books like these can inspire children to not only love music, but to also get interested in playing an instrument. As a parent of a 20-year-old pianist, I know just how much listening to classical music and talking about composers can shape a child’s future.

As for the relaxation factor, check out this photo of my husband, John and giant standard poodle, Darwin. I am playing the CD on my laptop as I write this, and you can see the effect it has on them!

Interested in more music knowledge for kids? Read my review of Verdi here.

– Reviewed by Debbie Glade

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