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Witty Prose Makes Shakespeare Palatable … Getting your kids to try Shakespeare is akin to having them taste Brussels sprouts, but The Random House Book of Shakespeare Stories ($20.95) just may help you get past the faces and protesting whines. Andrew Matthews re-tells eight of Shakespeare’s best remembered plays — Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Twelfth Night and Hamlet among them — with witty prose and background details that easily engage the emerging reader (8 and up). Each tale begins with a flyleaf that looks a bit like an old-time handbill, featuring a sub-title, caption line, cast list and setting description, followed by a couple of lines from Shakespeare’s original work. After revealing the plot through scenic detail and lively dialogue, the prize-winning author closes each story with a few more lines from its classic counterpart. Matthews’ prose, which isn’t hard to swallow to begin with, is even more delightful when paired with the drawings of Angela Barrett. The soft pastels of fairies from A Midsummer Night's Dream are particularly stunning. Children will laugh at that account, just as Shakespeare himself made folly of the complicity of adult love. And they’ll cry at others, such as the tragedy of the famed lovers from feuding families. Perhaps they’ll be a bit frightened by the witches, ghosts and skulls that pervade these works, or stumble over some of the olde, foreign names. But regardless of their reaction, your kids will get that serving of Shakespeare down.
… In more ways than one! And if you’d like to really introduce Shakespeare to your kids through their stomachs, New York City mom Francine Segan has the vehicle in her brand new cookbook, Shakespeare’s Kitchen, to be published this month by Random House ($35). Segan is a child psychologist turned cookbook author; her latest is a collection of easy-to-prepare recipes updated from Renaissance cookbooks. It also includes a list of suggested Shakespeare books on tape and reading books for young children, as well as fascinating facts on dining that she says “will keep kids riveted to the table.” The idea for Shakespeare’s Kitchen came from a family dinner Segan prepared with her kids’ help a couple of years ago. On the menu were appetizer-size meat pies (containing diced candied fruit, which Segan says her kids gobbled up very happily); salad (which she says was always a big part of every feast); and roasted chicken. After the meal, which they ate dressed in their bath robes, they sat down together and watched “Shakespeare in Love” on video. The family agreed this had been such a fun night, it got Segan thinking about the theme. “I found such wonderful recipes, I don’t know how they got lost along the way!” Segan remarks, adding that her own kids (Samantha, 15, and Max, 13) were amazed to hear that Will himself never tasted corn or drank tea (these were unknown in the Bard’s day), and that vegetables were routinely used in desserts. Segan’s book includes recipes for spinach cookies and a beet dessert — she swears no one would ever guess the ingredients. She also touts her homemade mustard recipe — “in which you can add honey, and the kids will suddenly love mustard!”