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Oh, Dear! Romeo and Juliet are Counting Down for the Kiddies

by Josina Reaves on August 25, 2011
Warning bump

Every now and then I encounter something that immediately strikes me as trouble.  Romeo & Juliet: A BabyLit Board Book is one of those things.

Written by Jennifer Adams and illustrated by Alison Oliver, the book is a counting primer for children ages 4-6.  Everything about it is–at second glance–pretty good.  The illustrations are lovely and colorful, the text is engaging and uses Shakespeare’s verse well, and the piece looks like it would stand up to a whole lot of handling by young, sticky hands.

And yet, I can’t help but feel a little queasy about the thought of kindergarteners learning their 1-2-3′s from a couple of teenagers who engage in risky behavior and off themselves (and a couple of other people) in the heat of a couple of moments.  Sure, it’s better than hiring a babysitter that inspires an upgrade of the nanny-cam, but it still seems like an odd choice.

Of course, I can’t image that “Little Master Shakespeare” goes into those details in the book, but isn’t that cheating?  It’s like showing Bambi and editing out the forest fire.  Just because basic cable can get away with showing The 40-Year-Old Virgin in the middle of the day doesn’t mean that moms and dads should start putting early modern tragedies in the hands of the sippy cup set.

Then again, maybe an early introduction to Shakespeare is a great thing.  The Royal Shakespeare Company is on a “get ‘em early” kick this season, but they’re still aiming at kids who already know how to count.

Heck, what do I know?  I’m not a mom, and my students are already old enough to recite the words from The 40-Year-Old Virgin as heard on premium cable.  Maybe this kind of heady Elizabethan tragedy is good for the kiddies, too.  You choose, and let me know.


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