Gr 3-5-These series titles aim to make the Bard's words accessible via free-prose adaptations. The formulaic retellings convey the plot lines of two popular comedies, but all evidence of his poetic genius is missing. Instead, modern slang expressions and/or cliches, such as Toby Belch's complaining of Olivia's "mooching around gloomy rooms" and Andrew's dancing "like a drunken flamingo," replace Shakespeare's more fluid language, trivializing his words. The characters are all included, introduced through pictures at the beginning of each volume, but all but the two main ones remain completely two-dimensional, and the relationships among them are unclear. This is particularly true in Much Ado, a complicated story with incidental characters whose purpose in the play is difficult to discern. For instance, Conrad and Borachio suddenly appear, but there is little sense as to why they are part of the plot against Claudio. The cartoon watercolor renderings, alternating between black-and-white and color, vary from quarter- to half-page in size and suggest the style used by animators. Thus, while they do reinforce the stories, there is a sameness among them, adding to the lack of character development. In fact the characters' images could be interchanged, even between plays, without much confusion. These books are no substitute either for the originals or even for Marchette Chute's classic Stories from Shakespeare (World, 1956; o.p.).-Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.