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All the World's a Stage

All the World's a Stage

by Rebecca Piatt Davidson

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This is young William,
His mind all ablaze,
Who stays up all night
Writing poems and plays.

And this is a book, unforgettable and wise, that applauds inspiration, creation, story, and the world and works of William Shakespeare.

Illustrated by Caldecott Honor artist Anita Lobel, All the World's a Stage pays tribute to the act of


This is young William,
His mind all ablaze,
Who stays up all night
Writing poems and plays.

And this is a book, unforgettable and wise, that applauds inspiration, creation, story, and the world and works of William Shakespeare.

Illustrated by Caldecott Honor artist Anita Lobel, All the World's a Stage pays tribute to the act of turning words into art.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A former English teacher, debut author Davidson raises the curtain on Shakespeare via a House that Jack Built-style catalogue of some of the playwright's most celebrated characters: "These are the twins/ In matching disguises,/ Courting and sporting/ All kinds of surprises/ Amusing the muse/ Who sings to the boy/ Who stays up all night/ Writing poems and plays." (Characters remain unnamed until the endnotes, while the title of the relevant play appears on the facing illustration, along with a quote from that play.) The approach is problematic. The nursery rhyme scheme may turn off those who have newly mastered the skills with which to approach Shakespeare, while the text presupposes some acquaintance with the Bard. The volume does not retell any of the stories, and offers little to enhance an understanding of the works. Plus the beginning spreads confusingly mix the real-life playwright with his fictional characters. Lobel's (On Market Street) artwork, on the other hand, ranks among her best. Here she gleefully follows her own theater muse, staging dramatic montages of the famous plays (one per spread). The multi-leveled watercolors capture a true sense of "troupe," with exquisite period clothing and intricate set designs. For A Midsummer Night's Dream, for example, fairies, "woodfolk," royal observers and animals frolic onstage in a kaleidoscope of color and costume. Notes from both author and illustrator, as well as detailed keys to the paintings that identify all the characters represented, may make this an appealing curiosity for Shakespeare fans. Others may, unfortunately, just scratch their heads. Ages 5-up. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
This introduction to some of Shakespeare's plays uses the cumulative formula of "The House That Jack Built," beginning with young William, "Who stays up all night/ Writing poems and plays." A brief rhyme merely suggests the plot of nine plays, with a quotation offered from each. All the characters appear on a Globe Theater-like stage in a finale evoked by the author. Just enough plot is hinted at to provoke curiosity, while the characters depicted are identified with a brief plot summary of each play at the end. Lobel creates with watercolor paints and white gouache a visual tour-de-force by arranging characters from each play in a dramatic tableau on the right page and a cumulative gathering of characters on the left. She designs all costumes and props, managing to keep the cumulative designs lively. We can sense the pleasure she takes from this challenge. The hope is that readers will be inspired at some time to seek out the plays themselves. Both author and illustrator add informative notes. 2003, Greenwillow Books/ HarperCollins Publishers,
— Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 3-7-A picture-book tribute to the Bard and nine of his well-known plays. Written in the style of "The House That Jack Built," the cumulative poem brings to life characters ranging from the long-lost twins in The Comedy of Errors to the star-crossed lovers of Romeo and Juliet. Each set of two rhyming couplets captures the essence of the plot, accompanied by the actual quote to which it refers. For example, shrewish Kate is described as "saucy and smart," while the caption on the facing illustration is her telling line, "I see a woman may be made a fool if she had not a spirit to resist." After the main characters of each play have been introduced, they continue to appear in the successive illustrations, finally taking a bow at the end of the tale as Will utters his famous line, "All the world's a stage-." Read aloud, this is a clever introduction to Shakespeare's varied characters, and Lobel's beautifully detailed watercolor and white-gouache paintings breathe life into both the invented personages and the world of the Elizabethan theatre itself. In fact, these stunning illustrations are the highlight of the book. Rich in precise detail, they give endless visual information on the times. The text itself, however, is somewhat problematic. The verses are so specific that only those familiar with the plays will understand all the references, and the rhythm of some of the verses is a bit forced. Still, the rhymes are pleasant and clever, and the fine illustrations will capture viewers' attention.-Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A creative introduction to Shakespeare combines rhyming descriptions of some of the Bard�s well-known characters with painterly illustrations in watercolor and white gouache. The text, in the style of "This Is the House that Jack Built," begins with young William and the Muse, who inspires him, then cumulatively introduces readers to Hamlet, Kate from The Taming of the Shrew, the feuding daughters of King Lear, and others. The names of the characters aren�t revealed in the rhymes; they�re for readers to figure out, and are unveiled in a key at the end that also provides brief information about the plays and other characters pictured. The marvelously integrated spreads include increasingly complex tableaux featuring all the characters as they appear in the text on the verso and a scene from the play in which the character appears on the recto, accompanied by a quote from the character in question. It�s too bad that those of picture book age are too young to read or understand Shakespeare�s plays once their interest has been piqued by these clever rhymes and richly-colored paintings. Nevertheless, this inventive approach, so well put together, will appeal to theater buffs and those teachers bound on introducing Shakespeare to those in elementary school. (Picture book. 5-9)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
11.82(w) x 9.02(h) x 0.36(d)
Age Range:
5 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Rebecca Piatt Davidson appeared in a production of William Shakespeare's The Tempest when she was in the fifth grade and has been fascinated by Shakespeare's works ever since. The author taught English literature at the university level for many years. She loves poetry and has been writing poems since she was eight, but this is her first book for children.

Rebecca Piatt Davidson lives with her family in Mesa, Arizona.

Anita Lobel's name is synonymous with the best in children's literature. She is the creator of such classics as Alison's Zinnia and Away from Home, and she received a Caldecott Honor for her illustrations in On Market Street. She is the creator of two books about her cat, Nini, One Lighthouse, One Moon (a New York Times Best Illustrated Book), and Nini Here and There. Her childhood memoir, No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War, was a finalist for the National Book Award. Anita Lobel lives in New York City.

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