Book review: The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Romeo and Juliet, by Ian Lendler, illustrated by Zack Giallongo

Lendler, Ian. The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Romeo and Juliet. Illus. Zack Giallongo. First Second, 2015. $12.99. 96p. 9781596439160. Ages 8-11. P8Q9

Lendler RomeoThe thespians from Stratford Zoo have produced their second Shakespeare play—the first being Macbeth—with even more hilarious results as animals romp on and off stage in this graphic narrative. Starring roles are Romeo rooster, representing the Mongtagues, and Juliet bear of the Capulets, Wilders who live in the forest. Their meeting at a costume party where Juliet masquerades as Abraham Lincoln and Romeo just wears a mask, lead to their becoming friends. By now readers may understand that this rendition of the play, although still dealing with prejudice between domestic and wild animals, is not literal enough for a substitute in reading the play, but it is hilarious. Instead of mushy love resulting in the couple’s deaths, the conclusion concerns hibernation, more suitable for this age level. Illustrations vary between vibrant colors of the play and subdued tones of the inset panels showing audience reactions. My favorite are Roger and Bruce, “buddy” vultures who discuss what parts they could have played. Wacky sight gags are common, and the humor carries on into the “Director’s Notes” at the end of the book which explain the play’s setting and history with facts about Shakespeare and the time.

April 2016 review by Nel Ward.

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