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Stories from Shakespeare CD (Unabridged) Review by Dawn Peterson

Geraldine McCaughrean
Fire the Imagination
888-780-0864
21 Suffolk St. W.
Guelph, ON N1H2H9
http://www.firetheimagination.ca

This is a wonderful way to introduce the works of Shakespeare to young adults! It's a three-CD set of Geraldine McCaughrean's Stories from Shakespeare, narrated by James Wilby. The back of the CD set reads, "Murderers, mad kings, mistaken identities, shipwrecks, soldiers, swordfights, ghosts, witches and feuds, they're all in here in stories to haunt and delight you and sometimes chill you to the bone. These stirring retellings of ten of the best-known plays, Romeo and Juliet, Henry the Fifth, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Twelfth Night, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, and The Tempest are a brilliant way to discover Shakespeare, and the ingenious use of quotations from the plays make them even more vivid."

I grew up learning very little about Shakespeare, sadly. I recall reading Romeo and Juliet in high school, but having not been introduced to Shakespeare earlier, I was confused and frustrated by the vocabulary and poetry. However, listening to these beautifully retold stories, sprinkled with direct quotes from Shakespeare, I was drawn in and able to thoroughly enjoy these classic stories as I hadn't been able to do previously. I especially appreciated that the retellings were not at all "dumbed down." The language is rich and beautiful, and Mr. Wilby does a superb job acting out each story with emotion and depth.

One note of caution to parents is that some stories on the CD may not be appropriate for younger children. I found that in some of the stories, the graphic descriptions of murder and the adult themes and emotions were too mature for my 7- and 9-year-olds. It's a good idea to listen to the stories first and decide what your child can handle. I plan to choose a few stories for the upper grammar years and save the rest for middle and high school.

One of the drawbacks to Stories from Shakespeare wasn't in the storytelling itself but in the absence of track listings. The only way to find where the specific stories are located on the CDs is by skipping to each successive track. This made it difficult and a bit frustrating to use, especially since one story could be recorded on several tracks. I'd suggest going through the CDs and writing down what is on each track ("CD 2, Track 3 - Hamlet; CD 2, Track 11 - Twelfth Night etc.) so that you have a list for future reference.

Overall, I would highly recommend Stories from Shakespeare, especially as a springboard to reading Shakespeare in the high school years.

Product review by: Dawn Peterson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, August 2008

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