: Preview – Leon Garfield’s Shakespeare Stories (NYRB Classics, 2015)

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by Leon Garfield, illustrated by Michael Foreman

How to introduce children to Shakespeare, not just to the stories behind the plays but to the richness of Shakespeare’s language and the depth of his characters: That’s the challenge that Leon Garfield, no slouch as a wordsmith himself, sets out to meet in his monumental and utterly absorbing Shakespeare Stories. Here twenty-one of the Bard’s plays are refashioned into stories that are true to the wit, the humor, the wisdom, the sublime heights, the terrifying depths, and above all the poetry of their great originals. Throughout, Garfield skillfully weaves in Shakespeare’s own words, accustoming young readers to language and lines that might at first seem forbiddingly unfamiliar. Leon Garfield’s Shakespeare Stories is an essential distillation—a truly Shakespearean tribute to Shakespeare’s genius and a delight for children and parents alike.

Leon Garfield (1921–1996) was born and raised in the seaside town of Brighton, England. His father owned a series of businesses, and the family’s fortunes fluctuated wildly. Garfield enrolled in art school, left to work in an office, and in 1940 was drafted into the army, serving in the medical corps. After the war, he returned to London and worked as a biochemical technician. In 1948 he married Vivian Alcock, an artist who would later become a successful writer of children’s books, and it was she who encouraged him to write his first novel, Jack Holborn, which was published in 1964. In all, Garfield would write some fifty books, including a continuation of Charles Dickens’s Mystery of Edwin Drood and retellings of biblical and Shakespearian stories. Among his best-known books are Devil-in-the-Fog (1966, winner of The Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize), The God Beneath the Sea (1970, winner of the Carnegie medal), Bostock and Harris; or, The Night of the Comet (1979; published in The New York Review Children’s Collection with Garfield’s The Strange Affair of Adelaide Harris in The Complete Bostock and Harris), and John Diamond (1980, winner of the Whitbread Award).

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