Rosen, Michael. 2004. SHAKESPEARE’S ROMEO & JULIET. Ill. by Jane Ray. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press. ISBN 0763622583 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-10]
This incredibly beautiful book introduces not only Shakespeare’s play but Shakespeare’s theater and times. The story is alternately paraphrased in narration and quoted (in bold face) for particularly important or beautiful passages. This exchange, from the party where Romeo and Juliet have just met, is typical: “By now, though, Romeo was thinking of kissing her mouth. Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too? he asked. Ay, pilgrim, she said, lips that they must use in prayer. But Romeo wasn’t put off. O then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do, he begged.” Sidebars include act and scene numbers and definitions of difficult or archaic vocabulary.
This is meant for older readers: the sexual attraction of Romeo and Juliet is frankly presented. But the captivating illustrations on half of every double page spread and the lyrical borders which offset the text are inviting to even reluctant readers, and are as much of a jewel as the retelling. SHAKESPEARE’S ROMEO & JULIET has been extensively reviewed and unanimously acclaimed. This excerpt from THE VOICE OF YOUTH ADVOCATES review of Aug. 1, 2004, is typical: “The volume is a great choice for reading aloud or private enjoyment. It would be a wonderful tool for introducing middle and younger junior high students to the study of a Shakespearean play and motivating them to view a play or enact the parts.”
Create a fast reader’s theater version of the play by assigning one or more narrators for the text, and asking the cast to read the lines in bold.
Discuss the illustrations and the way they augment and extend the story. One area to focus on is the skin-tone difference between Romeo and Juliet, which suggests that they may be of differing ethnic backgrounds.
Shakespeare’s plays retold by Bruce Coville:
MACBETH. ISBN 0803718993
ROMEO AND JULIET. ISBN 0803724624
Another excellent introduction to Shakespeare’s theater, with an accompanying CD of performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company:
Ganeri, Anita. THE YOUNG PERSON’S GUIDE TO SHAKESPEARE. ISBN 0152021019
By Julie Brinker