William Shakespeare: His Life and Times


A lavish, interactive introduction to the great poet’s life, his work and the times he lived in.

In this enthralling scrapbook that William Shakespeare compiled for his daughter, he looks back on his life as he retires from the theatre. Discover late-sixteenth- and early-seventeenth centurystories of love, war, kings and queens, fellow playwrights and actors, explorers and life in London.

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A lavish, interactive introduction to the great poet’s life, his work and the times he lived in.

In this enthralling scrapbook that William Shakespeare compiled for his daughter, he looks back on his life as he retires from the theatre. Discover late-sixteenth- and early-seventeenth centurystories of love, war, kings and queens, fellow playwrights and actors, explorers and life in London.

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Beth E. Andersen
In this beautifully executed, cleverly designed blend of excerpts from Shakespeare's plays, inventive personal writings, facsimile reproductions of the argot of the literary arena of his times, and contemporary explanatory essays, Central Michigan University professors McDermott and Berk have created an imaginary scrapbook as if it were produced by Shakespeare for his daughter, Judith. Filled with the kind of pull-out letters and 3-D pamphlets that were so popular with Nick Bantock's Griffin and Sabine (Chronicle Books,1991), all the threads of Shakespeare's professional and personal life are drawn together against a backdrop of artwork from the Museum of London, the British Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. We learn of Shakespeare's grief over the death of his only son, Hamnet (Judith's twin), his opinions of his contemporaries, such as Ben Jonson, and his thoughts about his looming retirement. Included are poignant statements reflecting his anguish over his long separation from his family while he was away in London writing and producing his plays. The minutiae of sixteenth-century London theater is fascinating—why did the stage sweepers love their job, why did magic and ghosts and shipwrecks play such a key role in some of his plays, why did he revere Mistress Alleyn, the Globe's seamstress? The scrapbook concludes with a tender message to his daughter and a copy of his will. Contrary to the publisher's suggested age level (grades four to six), this novelty treasure is a wonderfully unique way for mature middle school and high school readers to get a flavor for Shakespeare's life and writing. Reviewer: Beth E. Andersen
Children's Literature - Eleanor Heldrich
This book gets off to a bad start with a clumsy front cover that must first be opened to the right, then to the left, leaving the reader to deal with pieces of cover on both sides of the open book. The blurb on the back cover introduces the book with these words, "The year is 1613. On the eve of his retirement, poet and playwright William Shakespeare is compiling a scrapbook of his life and career for his family." A scrapbook? William Shakespeare? There are 13 double-page spreads of contrived material and each includes two or more flaps to lift and small booklets to examine. Unfortunately because so little actual material exists about his life, it is difficult to be sure how much of this book is fiction. Each spread has at least three and up to six sections of print in different fonts and sizes. Colorful illustrations suggestive of Shakespeare's era are supplied as background to the passages of text and pasted-on booklets and flaps. Titles of the double-page sections are: Childhood Days & Stratford Ways; Learning, Leisure & Labor; Husbands, Wives & Family Lives; London Life & Roguish Strife; A Place for Plays; Players & Penmen; As Above, So Below; Love Contented & Love Contemn'd (sic); Waging War on Land & Sea; Fair Feasts & Jolly Jests; Life at Court: Strife & Sport; Ghostly Things & Fears of Kings; Strange Places & New Races. The last page imagines an affectionate letter to his daughter Judith signed "Your ever-loving father," and a copy of his Last Will and Testament. What could be worse than creating new written material under the name of William Shakespeare? Putting it into a scrapbook. Reviewer: Eleanor Heldrich
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up—This handsome biography, designed as a scrapbook that Shakespeare kept for his daughter Judith, is presented as "a recollection of his years and works…upon the eve of his departure from London to retirement in Stratford-upon-Avon." The portfoliolike volume is filled with facsimiles of documents, writings of Shakespeare's contemporaries, and synopses of his plays, all helping to piece together the facts of his life and the mores of the day. The "autobiographical" writing is laced with vocabulary that captures the flavor of the period, while the authors' informational sidebars use straightforward, clear prose to complement the flowing narrative. Historical details abound, not only in the text but also in the carefully selected "documents" that adorn the book, permitting readers to pore over everything from Elizabethan "Child-Rearing Advice" to period "Siege Engines" to a "Glossary" of types of thieves. While the basic facts of any well-written Shakespearean biography can be found here, this work also discusses his opinions of his friends and rivals, reveals his deep feelings, and conveys misgivings about some of his life choices. Abundant humor, quotes from Shakespeare's works, and some lesser-known facts add interest to the familiar story. Illustratively, the book is a feast for the eye, with backgrounds composed of high-quality period prints, paintings and sketches, and numerous fold-out facsimiles that pop out from the double-sided pages. Berk and McDermott offer a new perspective on the bard—that of the aged genius looking back on his life and career. Shakespeare lovers and teachers will be delighted.—Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, The Naples Players, FL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763647940
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 7/27/2010
  • Series: Historical Notebooks Series
  • Pages: 30
  • Sales rank: 508,764
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.40 (w) x 11.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Ari Berk is a professor of English at Central Michigan University, where he teaches Mythology, Folklore, American Indian Literature, and Medieval Literature.

Kristen McDermott is a professor of English at Central Michigan University, where she teaches Renaissance Drama and Literature.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 4, 2010

    A letter from Will

    It's funny how many people come to Shakespeare thinking he's boring or dull or whatever, even before they've heard or read a word of what he wrote. This delightful introduction, presented both in and out of character, should go a long way to changing that. The Shakespeare in these pages is a real person, full of life, joys, and sorrows. On the eve of retirement, he writes a letter to his daughter Judith, waiting for him at home in Stratford, and describes the England he knows and especially the great city of London where he has spent most of his career. This book, for the most part, is that letter. (It begins in the very first envelope on the title page. Don't miss it!)

    The voice is warm, friendly, and fatherly--the Elizabethan tone is suggested more than anything else. Pull-outs, fold-outs, and envelopes add interest with proverbs, advice, theatre hand-bills, and other bits and pieces you won't find at a Renaissance festival. The beautifully illustrated double-pages are a scrap-book of the late Elizabethan and early Jacobean world that will give any reader a pleasant taste of what Shakespeare and his contemporaries, peasants and peers, thought and believed about the world, and how they lived in it, too. Love and family life, plays and the theatre, war and science, even what they ate, drank, and laughed at are all represented.

    The brilliant Ari Berk never ceases to delight, and this time--writing in partnership with his wife, the equally talented Kristen McDermott--is no exception. Together, the authors have given us a rare life and times, a book that shows us Shakespeare not as the Great Bard but as a husband and father, working writer and actor, looking forward to coming home. It's a joy to read and page through, and will doubtless become a treasured book even after the reader has "out-grown" it.

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