Review of Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night Twelfth Night
by William Shakespeare; retold by Georghia Ellinas; illus. by Jane Ray
Primary, Intermediate    Candlewick    32 pp.
8/24    9781536231502    $17.99

Feste the clown/fool is our tour guide in this retelling of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. He is uniquely suited to this job because, as he says, he’s the only person who knows “what is going on and who is fooling whom.” In a prose text, he introduces us to the mix-and-match merry-making, love lost and found, cross-dressing, plots-gone-wrong, and general bewilderment of Illyria, as well as tidily conveying not only the hilarity of the story but also some of its darker emotional implications such as the undoing of Malvolio. At the most tangled moment of the Olivia/Orsino/Sebastian/Viola mix-up, Feste declares: “It was difficult to know whom to feel sorrier for as they were all so confused and upset.” This genial introduction to the play is a good choice for young theatergoers but is also a fine picture book in its own right, maximizing the theatrical nature of picture books. The watercolor illustrations in jewel-like colors and energetic compositions are reminiscent of the work of Tomie dePaola, and the casual diversity of the characters is a welcome touch. Like the play, the final scene has its lonely note. We see everybody happily coupled except an aging Feste, who sits secluded with his lute, his hand puppet, and his beruffed dog.

From the May/June 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Sarah Ellis
Sarah Ellis is a Vancouver-based writer and critic, recently retired from the faculty of The Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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