cover image Ira’s Shakespeare Dream

Ira’s Shakespeare Dream

Glenda Armand, illus. by Floyd Cooper. Lee & Low, $18.95 (40p) ISBN 978-1-62014-155-7

This gracefully told and elegantly illustrated story studies African-American actor Ira Frederick Aldridge, born in New York City in 1807. When a young Aldridge tells his teacher that he wants to perform Shakespeare at a theater that allows only white actors, the man (who is also African-American) replies, “You dream too big for a colored boy.” (An author’s note explains that while the book adheres to what is known about Aldridge, it also includes “some imagined scenes, people, thoughts, and dialogue.”) In what proves to be a crucial decision, Aldridge signs on as a cabin boy on a ship bound for South Carolina, where he is horrified to see slaves sold at auction. That sorrow and compassion remains with him as he becomes an acclaimed Shakespearean actor in England. Using oil washes and erasers to create his familiar hazy effect, Cooper (A Dance Like Starlight) integrates both natural and stage light to underscore Ira’s passion for his craft and his beliefs. Laced with Shakespearean lines, Armand’s (Love Twelve Miles Long) understated narrative gives Ira a gentle and inspiring strength. Ages 7–12. Author’s agent: Karen Grencik, Red Fox Literary. (July)