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Burdett, Lois and Christine Coburn
Windsor (Ont.), Black Moss Press, 1994. 48pp, paper, $7.95
ISBN 0-88753-233-0- Distributed by Firefly Books. CIP

Grades 2-7 / Ages 7-12

Reviewed by Maryleah Otto

Volume 22 Number 6
1994 November / December

Do you think that enjoying ginger ale in childhood guarantees an appreciation of Dom Perignon at maturity? If so, then you'll have high praise for Burdett and Cobum's attempt to make Shakespeare's Twelfth Night intelligible to and entertaining for children as young as seven.

Burdett's grade 2 class in Stratford has actually performed the play in such lofty venues as the Stratford Festival, the Ontario Legislature and Southwest Texas State University. Burdett, who has won numerous accolades for her methods of teaching writing and reading skills, has rewritten Twelfth Night in rhyming couplets liberally laced with juvenile slang of the 1990s. The characters remain intact but the plot is bare-boned.

Did the Classic Comics lead anyone to the original texts? I don't know but I do know that many fine authors today recall having heard classical English at their parents' knee, and the memory of true linguistic beauty has stayed with them, even been an inspiration for their own work. Burdett's Twelfth Night does what it is intended to do, but, please, let's give the kids a sip of champagne now and then, eh? It won't hurt.

A word about the illustrations. They are all done by Burdett's young students and they are delightful! So are the letters and messages that the children write to the characters in their own words. (I guess correct spelling is a no-no. We musn't inhibit the Muse... but that's another story.)

Recommended for teachers of theatre arts in grades 2 to 6 and for independent reading in grades 3 to 7.

Maryleah Otto is a children's author and retired librarian in St. Thomas, Ontario

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