cover image All the World's a Stage

All the World's a Stage

Lee Bennett Hopkins, illus. by Guy Billout. Creative Editions, $19.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-56846-218-9

Poet and anthologist Hopkins (Nasty Bugs) reads Shakespeare's "All the World's a Stage" soliloquy not as a meditation on the futility of existence, but as a straightforward account of the stages of human development. He uses it to frame a selection of 21 mostly modern-era, mostly free-verse poems, accompanied by French artist Billout's (Journey) crisp, surrealist spreads. In the section titled "Adulthood" ("And then the justice,/ In fair round belly with good capon lin'd"), Paul Janeczko reminisces about his mother's hot night at bingo. "She pulled dollars bills/ from her pockets/ before setting them free. %E2%80%98Ninety-two dollars!' " In the final section, "Exits" ("Last scene of all..."), Cynthia Cotten mourns: "Once I ran to meet tomorrow./ Now I sit/ and wait." Billout borrows Magritte's eye for enigma. An infant in a ballroom discovers that the tiled floor ripples like a pond; a hiker gazes into a deep chasm and finds it opens onto the night sky. The pictures feel cool, the Shakespeare passages lofty, the poetry familiar and chatty, and the type and layout stark%E2%80%94it's a hodgepodge of tones and registers. Ages 8%E2%80%93up. (Oct.)