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Stories from the Opera (book with audio CDs) Review by Nancy Casari Dayton

Shahrukh Husain
Barefoot Books
866 417-2369
2067 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02140

Those of you who love the quality of Barefoot Books will not be disappointed with this title. This selection provides a beautiful introduction to stories of the opera. The following stories are included: Mozart's The Magic Flute, Britten's The Little Sweep, Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel, Wagner's The Flying Dutchman, Von Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice, and Rimsky-Korsakov's Christmas Eve. An Introduction and an "At the Opera" section provide general information about opera. At the end of the book, there are two sections entitled "Famous Opera Houses" and "Composers and Recordings" that provide additional information.

Shahrukh Husain's retellings are spot-on for familiarizing children with the storylines of the operas. The language is clear. It is neither stuffy nor insipid. James Mayhew's illustrations are colorful, detailed, and bright. They bring the stories to life. My children love them. However, the illustrations are not in a realistic style; if you are looking for illustrations that look like photography, you may not prefer the style here. One of the best features of this title is that it comes with two CDs of the stories narrated by Miranda Richardson. Her reading is delightful: it is warm, clear, and enthusiastic.

My young children (ages 3 and 5) have thoroughly enjoyed Stories from the Opera. When I tell them they are so delicious that I want to eat them, they ask if I am going to eat them like the Crunch Witch wanted to eat Hansel and Gretel! The joke is all in good fun, but I love that the experience of hearing the story and looking at the illustrations has stuck with them.

The paperback book with the CDs lists for $16.99. This is a wonderful opportunity to help your children appreciate opera.

Product review by Nancy Casari Dayton, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, May 2008