In an attempt to introduce the characters, poetry, and concepts of William Shakespeare to
children, author Cass Foster provides a 104-page, heavily edited, large-print version of the
play Romeo and Juliet. The material is divided into acts, and preceded by a cast of
characters and brief prologue. Some of the more difficult words appear in footnotes with
explanations or definitions.
To abbreviate and simplify, Foster summarizes much of the play into prose, yet includes
small portions of the original text to give young readers a taste of Shakespeare’s poetic form.
Nearly half the book contains simple illustrations from the text. Intended for children to read
by themselves, or with a parent or teacher, the violence and sexuality of Shakespeare’s work are
Helpful discussion questions at the back of the book ask children to think about their emotions
as they read the story and to make judgments about the characters and the story. For example,
Foster references Romeo caving in to peer pressure by attending the Capulet party. He then asks
readers "What sort of things wouldn’t you do even if your friends wanted you to?"
There’s no shortage of other books that bring Shakespearean works to school-aged children,
though this particular book was nominated for the Ben Franklin Children’s Storybook Award.
Foster’s sincere appreciation for the original work seems evident in his presentation of the
material. However, some of the book’s inconsistencies with regard to the definitions will leave
For example, why are relatively common words such as "walk," "ghostly," and "bound" defined,
but not "rancor," "rapier," and "lamentable?" Similarly, the word "prodigious" is defined with
the word "ominous," which may not be any more understandable to young readers. With a handy adult
(and a dictionary), children should enjoy this initial reading of Romeo and Juliet.