Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

William Shakespeare: His Life and Times

William Shakespeare: His Life and Times

Kristin McDermott, Ari Berk
Illustrator:  Ian Andrew , Diz Wallis , Eloise Lambert 
Novelty Book
For ages 10 and up
Candlewick Press, 2010   ISBN: 978-0763647940

It is 1613, and William Shakespeare, the famous playwright, is no longer a young man. He has lived apart from his family for many years and has now decided that the time has come for him to leave London to retire in Stratford, which his family lives. Wanting to capture his memories and thoughts, William creates a record of “his years and his works” for his daughter Judith. He tells her about his childhood and his education (for which he gives much thanks). He enjoyed his studies, for the most part, but had to leave school when he was fourteen because “Pa could no longer afford the fees.”

Having been educated “above his state,” William did not know what to do with his life. He was not suited to work in his father’s shop, so he helped the sons of tradesmen with their the Latin grammar studies, which was how he came to meet Anne Hathaway, the sister of one his pupils.

Though she was older than William, Anne married the young man, and soon they had a daughter called Susannah. Two years later Hamnet and Judith were born, and when the twins were around six years old, William left his hometown and went to London. William was restless and he needed to find a way to provide for his family. London seemed to be the answer, and after being an actor in a “troupe of players” for a while, William became an actor-owner in the most popular theatre company in the country, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men.

William goes on to talk about his plays and the characters he played. He describes the people who were his friends and rivals, and what it was like to live in London. He gives his daughter a picture of what his life has been like, and shows her how he, and his plays, were influenced by the culture, history, and people of that time.

This remarkable book is packed with information, pictures, illustrations, and novelty features. As they read the text, look at the artwork, open envelopes, and lift flaps, readers will come to appreciate what it was like to be William Shakespeare. Written using language and terms that were commonly used in England in the early 1600’s, the story is both engaging and fascinating. The narrative is complimented by sections of factual text that helps readers to better understand what William is talking about, and to give his account a historical context.