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Tales from Shakespeare Review by Nancy Dayton

Charles and Mary Lamb
Blackstone Audio
PO Box 969
Ashland, OR 97520

This collection of seven cassettes contains a ten-hour reading of the Lamb's print book, verbatim, even the preface. The preface contains interesting background on the Lambs and their writing project. The following plays are summarized: The Tempest; A Midsummer Night's Dream; The Winter's Tale, Much Ado About Nothing; As You Like It; The Two Gentlemen of Verona; The Merchant of Venice; Cymbaline; King Lear; Macbeth; All's Well That Ends Well; The Taming of the Shrew; The Comedy of Errors; Measure for Measure; Twelfth Night; Timon of Athens; Romeo and Juliet; Hamlet; Othello; and Pericles, Prince of Tyre. It is a fabulous resource for children from preschool age up to middle school age. Adults could enjoy it too, I think.

What a wonderful way to introduce your children to the richness of Shakespeare's language. The Lambs' book offers an abridged retelling of Shakespeare's original plays. If you are not familiar with the Lambs' versions, they are just amazing scaled-down versions that still retain the original style of language, characterizations, and story lines in a format more digestible to children or anyone who might find reading the original works to be too daunting a task.

Another benefit is simply hearing the story read by someone else (not Mom) in a lively, even, near-perfect manner. The fact that Nadia May has that delightful English accent seems so appropriate for this material. The recording is of very good quality in general; although, there are occasions when it sounds as though her voice suddenly shifts directions, as though coming from a different room or side of the stage.

For nonreaders like my preschool-aged son, it is advantageous just to be exposed to the richness and uniqueness that is Shakespeare (notwithstanding current debates about authorship of works attributed to Shakespeare). Young readers might be greatly aided by following along with a print copy of the Lambs' book, as well. I enjoyed listening to the stories I hadn't read in quite a while. I could almost imagine myself attending a special one-woman reading at a salon somewhere in London, and I found myself looking forward to introducing these great works to my children. Wouldn't it be fun to have a little tea party on a rainy day and listen to Much Ado About Nothing?

A resource that the whole family can enjoy is a worthwhile investment. This recording lists for $49.95, but when I checked the website, I found a used copy available for $12.49. In fact, there are many sale titles offered at 75% reductions available online everyday.

Here is the best part of this review: if you call the 800 number above and identify yourself as a homeschooler, you can order items in Blackstone's catalog for 50% off! This special pricing is available only by phone. This information just paid for your subscription to The Old Schoolhouse Magazine! Now go get one for a friend.

Product review by Nancy Casari Dayton, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2007