cover image Shakespeare and Macbeth

Shakespeare and Macbeth

Stewart Ross, Kenneth Branagh. Viking Children's Books, $16.99 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-670-85629-9

In a successful blend of fact and fact-based fiction, Ross brings to life Shakespeare's London, going behind the scenes of the Globe Theatre to imagine the Bard's creation of Macbeth. Then Ross narrows the focus and takes the reader to a royal performance of the play before King James, building up the atmosphere and giving an impressively clear synopsis of the plot. Overall, the resulting book is intelligent and informative, and excells at introducing theater as a living art form. It does not attempt to condense or retell Macbeth; instead it takes the play as a centerpiece, expanding into a biography of Shakespeare and an overview of theater, politics and customs in 17th-century England. The text sometimes lacks immediacy (conversations are paraphrased; much is explained rather than shown), but the richness of the subject matter overcomes this flaw. Somber-hued, people-filled illustrations have the precision of photography and the look of the Dutch masters. They add authenticity and a sense of history, and they enhance the excitement of scenes of Macbeth in performance. Line drawings swirl around the borders of the play's synopsis, capturing the action contained within the words. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)