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William Shakespeare, His Life and Times, written and complied by Kristen McDermott, Phd and Ari Berk, PhD, illustrated by Templar Books, RL 4

William Shakespeare : His Life and Times by Kristen Mc Dermott and Ari Berk is yet another in the the gorgeous, fantastic Historical Notebooks series from Candlewick Press and winner of several awards for non-fiction picture books. As with all the books in this series, William Shakespeare : His Life and Times is interactive and filled with flaps, maps, booklets (featuring his most popular plays with a brief synopsis) and envelopes containing letters.

A biography, William Shakespeare : His Life and Times begins with his childhood in Stratford-upon-Avon, noting that Will lived through a particularly bad outbreak of the bubonic plague as a child. Throughout the book, no matter what period of Shakespeare's life is being examined, the authors make links between his real life experiences and the content of his plays, focusing on aspects of his life and work that will be most interesting to young readers. The wonderful thing about the life of William Shakespeare, as opposed to Cleopatra, another subject in the Historical Notebooks series, is the wealth of documentation he left behind. William Shakespeare : His Life and Times reproduces everything from his last will and testament to playbills, maps and images of a "Groundling's Penny," the cost of admittance to the Old Globe (equal to the price of a meal of bread and ale) and an image of a wedding band from the time.

While Shakespeare's life and work are completely fascinating on their own, England, London especially, was going through a particularly notable period of growth, and the authors draw parallels for readers. This is especially interesting when you consider, as it is noted, that Shakespeare's plays are as full of war as they are love. The spread titled "Waging War on Land and Sea" discusses the War of the Roses as well as the one major conflict that occurred during Shakespeare's time, the threat from the Spanish Armada. Life at Court and the travails of the nobles are also detailed in William Shakespeare : His Life and Times in intriguing detail, including a brief description of a water closet. As with all the books in the Historical Notebooks series, this is something that kids and adults will pore over, shouting out interesting facts as they read.

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