The Tempest

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Georghia Ellinas (text) and Jane Ray (illustrator), The Tempest, Walker Books Ltd., 32 pp., October 2019, RRP $24.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781406376852

The Shakespeare Globe Trust is to be commended for this children’s edition of one of Shakespeare’s more complex plays. Georghia Ellinas has managed to condense this tale of magic, betrayal, love and forgiveness into a charming story accessible to young children without losing the wonder and appeal of the original. This is in no small part due to the subtlety and delicacy of Ray’s artwork.

The magician Prospero, the former duke of Milan, and his daughter Miranda have been banished to an enchanted island which they share with Caliban, a Wildman and the sprite, Ariel, who are both in service to the duke. This version is told from the viewpoint of Ariel, the spirit freed by Prospero and then engaged by him to wreak revenge on his enemies. Ariel creates a huge tempest which brings them all to the island including Ferdinand, who falls in love with Miranda. In the end after lots of magic done by Ariel, Prospero forgives everyone, even Caliban. They all return home, leaving Caliban to rule his island and Ariel to enjoy his freedom.

The text, simple and straightforward, does a marvellous job of simplifying a complex tale. There is careful use of some original Shakespeare which can only entice the reader to read more. Some sacrifices have to made and it is a pity that Caliban is such a minor figure. Ray cleverly hints at some complexity in her depictions of him – looking regal while sitting dejected in his cave and smiling sweetly in the endpiece. His head ornamentation looks very like a crown of thorns to me …

Brilliant colours and rich ornamentation create a magical isle where wonders happen. The birds eye view of the whole island in the double page spread showing where everyone is, is both beautiful and effective in helping the reader understand what is happening. Telling the story from Ariel’s point of view really helps to draw in all the multiple threads of the plot. Ellinas and Ray have succeeded magnificently in conveying the heart and soul of this major Shakespeare play and created a beautiful work in its own right. Recommended.

Reviewed by Mia Macrossan

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