Glowing tribute

30th April 2004 at 01:00
Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

By Michael Rosen and Jane Ray Walker pound;

12.99

This new version of a classic tragedy shows that a man and woman brought together by passion can create a book with a truly happy outcome.

Both author and illustrator plainly love the play, and they shape their ardour to the reader's enjoyment.

Rosen provides a lively thumbnail sketch of Elizabethan London and its playhouses before telling the story. His narrative is clear and energetic and - best of all - it allows Shakespeare half the words. Generous portions of the original drama stand out in bold type, supported by discreet and helpful marginal notes. Prose and poetry are happily blended.

Jane Ray's pictures are delightful in a complementary manner. Every double-page spread has at least one generous image in sumptuous but subtle colour. Some portraits have a Renaissance, others an equally appropriate Byzantine look. We see the Capulets' house, the Friar's cell, the death of Mercutio, the Apothecary's workshop and - of course - the young lovers in moments of tenderness, ecstasy and death. Scattered among the text are smaller graceful forms: a lute, a nightingale, a quill pen, a rose.

The wedding of text and images makes this a book suitable for spirited nine-year-olds, but older readers will share in their pleasure.

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