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William Shakespeare: His Life and Times    by Ari Berk & Kristen McDermott order for
William Shakespeare
by Ari Berk
Order:  USA  Can
Templar, 2010 (2010)
* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

This lavish, interactive introduction to William Shakespeare not only gives the reader a sense of the man and works, but it also offers a glimpse into the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries and life in London.

It is 1613 and the famous playwright and poet is about to retire. Sifting through his papers Shakespeare has decided to create a scrapbook of his life for his daughter Judith. From his early years in Stratford-upon-Avon to his career in London, this fictional account of the Bard's life is filled with excerpts from his works, advice to his daughter, and some of the stories behind the plays he wrote.

The interactive presentation invites youngsters to peek inside envelopes and read the contents as well as fold out small booklets to learn about the details of Shakespeare's life.

You'll learn about Shakespeare's schooling, his married life, and the theatre world of Elizabethan London as well as details about religion, the monarchy, The Globe Theatre and everyday existence in England during this period.

Although the book offers lots of information, the use of a variety of typefaces and cursive writing may make some of it difficult to read for a younger child. Also, it is easy to miss some of the interactive parts of the book, so I would suggest you run your hand back and forth across each page so you don't miss any flaps that need to be opened.

As general introductions to William Shakespeare go, this volume has a lot to recommend it. It is not overly simplistic nor does it water down the material so much that it insults the child's intelligence. The book provides an excellent jumping off point for a more detailed and serious investigation of Shakespeare's life and his plays. Although aimed at an audience of eight or nine year olds, I think that middle school and even high school students will also glean much from these pages.

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