How does one develop a love of Shakespeare in young children? By reading them the magnificent rendering which author Ann Beneduce and illustrator Gennady Spirin have provided in The Tempest. Ms. Beneduce has distilled the essence of the play into a 32-page picture book, emaining faithful to the plot and characters as Shakespeare wrote them. For clarity’s sake she has moved one or two scenes around, but the feeling of Shakespeare’s greatest play is there-the baseness of Caliban; Miranda’s wide-eyed innocence; Ferdinand’s immediate love and evotion to her; Prospero’s vengeance forgotten and forgiveness extended; and the delectable, barely controlled Ariel darting here and there. Beneduce has written a tale to fascinate any child.
Having long been a great admirer of Gennady Spirin’s work, I was thrilled and delighted with his meticulous, highly romantic, Italian enaissance figures and costumes. His Ariel, with long, pointed wings, looks like an angel right out of an ancient icon, and the deep, textured richness of the costumes will make readers feel they are sitting in the theater. The half-man, half-fish Caliban is appropriately delegated to just a few scenes, but is just as frightening as if he sat at the bottom of every page. There are so many delightful visual asides that I cannot begin to go into them here. So I’ll simply tell you that this is one of the outstanding books of the year so far, and you would be terribly remiss not to include it in your child’s library.