cover image William Shakespeare's the Tempest

William Shakespeare's the Tempest

Bruce Coville. Doubleday Books for Young Readers, $16.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-385-32056-6

This dramatic picture book serves as a good introduction to Shakespeare's well-loved play. Coville (Aliens Ate My Homework) retains the play's supernatural elements while strongly developing themes of human weakness, revenge and forgiveness. Wisely, he simplifies the plot, untangling past histories to relate the tale chronologically. His love of the play is evident, and his narrative is both compassionate and humorous. However, as is generally true of retellings of classic works, the book only hints at the wit and the extraordinary language of the original and, at best, strives chiefly to lead readers to the Bard's own words. Moreover, the plot feels rushed in this format (``But the celebration had hardly begun when Ariel arrived to tell his master of Caliban's dark plan''). Sanderson's (The Enchanted Wood) old-fashioned oil paintings capture both ethereal spirits and the heavy brocade of the period setting. Her pastel skies, her depiction of springtime in an island setting, evoke a tender feeling of hope. All in all, an admirable introduction. All ages. (Sept.)