animals, children, classics

William Sheepspeare (Wild Bios)

Authors: Courtney Acampora & Maggie Fischer
Illustrator: Benedetta Capriotti
Publisher: Silver Dolphin Books
Genre: Children / Classics / Board book
ISBN: 978-1-68412-619-4
Pages: 16
Price: $7.99

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In hilarious ovine fashion, William Sheepspeare introduces Shakespeare to kids. But this is no dry biography for parents to read to their toddlers. Instead, clever puns fill these pages.

For example: Sheepspeare was a master of tragedy, with classics like: “Lamblet,” “MacBleat,” “Julius Fleecer,” and “All’s Wool That Ends Wool.” … Sheepspeare had a sense of humor, too. His comedies, like “Taming of the Ewe” and “As Ewe Like It,” had audiences baa-ing for more.

Small children won’t get these enjoyable puns, but they will entertain parents who will be reading it over and over again. And at some time in the future, kids might remember this funny tale and seek out more information about the Baa-rd. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

animals, children, classics

Sleep Tight, Sleepy Bears

Author: Margaret Wise Brown
Illustrator: Julie Clay
Publisher: Silver Dolphin Books
Genre: Children / Classic
ISBN: 978-1-68412-760-3
Price: $12.99

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A big sleepy bear and a little sleepy bear are settling in for the night. One at a time, they each give a big yawn, a big stretch, and climb into bed. Heads on their pillows, they close their eyes and sing softly. And then they go to sleep.

This classic from Margaret Wise Brown encourages sleepy little ones to willingly climb into bed and mimic the bears’ actions. I especially liked the revised version of the bedtime prayer “Now I lay me down to sleep” which has angels keeping watch and no mention of death.

Cute and cuddly bears, sweet words, and a soft and gentle rhythm make Sleep Tight, Sleepy Bears a perfect addition to your child’s bedtime routine. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

adventure, children, classics

The Wee Musketeers

The Wee Musketeers
Author: Robert Bresloff
Publisher: Pumpkinhead Productions
Genre: Children / Adventure / Classics
ISBN: 978-1482393514
Pages: 216
Price: $8.95

Author’s website
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Three boys pretend to be the Three Musketeers, but they’re missing the leader of the group. So when Bobby’s grandfather discovers a portal into the book, they can’t wait to join him in Paris in 1626. What they don’t realize is that by appearing and taking part in the adventure, they could possibly mess up the whole book.

D’Artagnan must make a secret journey while attempting to hide from Cardinal Richelieu’s men, and he has a few extra passengers along for the ride. Misadventures await them on their trip, and the story begins to unravel. But with Grandpa Max making sure they don’t stray too far from the text, they complete their mission without too much mishap.

Fans of The Three Musketeers will probably enjoy this book more than the casual reader, who might not always follow along with the action. The three boys are pretty much indistinguishable from each other, and it’s hard to keep track of who’s who. No character really jumps out as the hero, other than maybe Grandpa Max, and kids may find it hard to relate to anyone. The plot is relatively simple, following the original story with a few side trips along the way. Since I don’t know the original classic, I can’t say for certain where those deviations were, but it would have been nice to see more creative detours that brought out the characters’ personalities.

The text of The Wee Musketeers is free of grammatical errors and typos usually found in self-published works, and the author appears to know this classic well. But this book might be better suited as a companion work for studying the original, rather than as a stand-alone story.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

audio book, classics

The Perfumed Garden

The Perfumed Garden
Author: Sheikh Nefzaoui
Translator: Richard Burton
Read by: Jonathan Keeble
Publisher: Naxos Audio Books
Genre: Classics
Length: 5 CDs (Total time 6:34:43)
Price: $34.98

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The Perfumed Garden was written in the 15th century by Arab Sheikh Nefzaoui. Like India’s Kama Sutra, it portrays the joys of marital love through words and descriptions. If the reader follows the instructions provided, the author declares he will have an opportunity to experience these pleasures to the fullest.

Sheikh Nefzaoui was determined to provide an encyclopedic work in naming sexual positions, and both the male and female body parts. These lists are followed up by detailed descriptions which require some work to visualize properly. Drawings would have been nice, but were not provided with the CDs, and may not have been included in the original text.

In addition to the copious lists, short anecdotes and other explanations are included. Commentary on the deceits and treacheries of women is especially amusing, and home remedies for various ailments are also provided, although they should be used with extreme care. Married love is considered one of the greatest pleasures on earth, and both men and women are encouraged to enjoy each other to the fullest.

This sensitive subject is handled professionally and skilfully by reader Jonathan Keeble. Taking on the personality of Sheikh Nefzaoui, he encourages listeners to follow his instructions and maximize their pleasure. This quality production would be perfect for couples to enjoy on a quiet evening, letting nature take its course with its message.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

audio book, classics

Resurrection (Naxos Audio)

Author: Leo Tolstoy
Publisher: Naxos Audio
Genre: Classics / Audio Books
ISBN: 978-184-379-574-2
Length: 16 CDs (Total time 20:13:55)
Price: $98.98

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Prince Dmitri Nekhludov once loved a young girl named Katusha. Many years later, he serves jury duty on a murder case. The accused is Katusha, now a prostitute, and when she is unjustly convicted, Nekhludov’s conscience can’t let the verdict rest.

Facing his own role in destroying Katusha’s life, he determines to do everything he can to free her from her sentence. And in the process, he becomes interested and involved in how the prison systems operate. Now he not only needs to protect Katusha, but he also begins to help others who have been unjustly and unfairly imprisoned.

Tolstoy’s classic, Resurrection, is a powerfully moving tale of a wealthy and privileged man facing his own inhumanity in the treatment of those who are helpless to protect themselves. In working to save Katusha, Nekhludov is also saving himself from a life of useless and vain pursuits.

Neville Jason is marvelous in conveying the drama as it unfolds, and bringing this somewhat dry tale to life. The listener has compassion for Nekhludov and Katusha, as he listens in on their life stories. Naxos Audio has created a wonderful production of Resurrection for all who enjoy listening to the classics.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

children, classics

Little Witch

Little Witch
Author: Anna Elizabeth Bennett
Illustrator: Helen Stone
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Genre: Children
ISBN: 978-1-61608-964-1
Pages: 128
Price: $12.95

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Minikin Snickasnee (Minx) is the nine year-old daughter of the town witch. Her mother is evil, and won’t let her go to school or play with the other children. In fact, she dislikes children so much she turns them into flowerpots. Minx hates being a little witch, and desperately wants to be a normal girl.

Not one to sit around hopelessly, waiting for things to change, Minx decides to go to school, in spite of her mother’s wrath. She casts spells, hoping for the right one to bring what she longs for. And she makes friends, even though she’s putting them in danger of becoming flowerpots. One day, everything does change, as her efforts are finally successful, and she is able to live the life of her dreams.

Little Witch was first introduced in 1953, and this 60th anniversary edition brings this classic back into print. It was named #7 in a School Library Journal poll of top 100 children’s novels, and tops the “most in demand” list of out of print books. In this reprint, nothing is lost of the original, with all illustrations and font intact. If you read Little Witch in your youth, and want to share this timeless treasure with your own kids, this is a must-have edition for your collection.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

audio book, classics

The Mill on the Floss (Naxos Complete Classics)

The Mill on the Floss
Author: George Eliot
Read by Laura Paton
Produced by Naxos AudioBooks
Genre: Classics
ISBN: 978-184-379-6046
Length: 16 CDs (Total time 20:38:08)
Price: $98.98

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In 1860, Mary Ann Evans, known under the pen-name of George Eliot, published The Mill on the Floss. This intricate picture of the life of Maggie Tulliver, born and raised at Dorlcote Mill on the river Floss, begins when Maggie is a young girl. Spanning two decades, the story revolves around the Dodson and Tulliver families.

Maggie’s dearest love is her brother, Tom, who alternately loves and despises her. When her father’s rash decisions leave the family destitute, Maggie is a teenager, searching for meaning in her life. Although she later falls in love, the unsuitability of the match causes her much pain and suffering.

This delightfully complex novel introduces some memorable characters. Each has his own strengths and weaknesses, and no one is entirely good or bad. They are all simply human, struggling in a world that often feels very unfair.

Naxos Audio has presented a wonderful audio adaption of this unabridged classic. Laura Paton does a masterful job of acting the various roles, and providing different voices for each character. The listener almost feels a part of the conversations as they take place. Although reading a classic can often feel dull and difficult, the audio version brings it to life in a brand new way. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to The Mill on the Floss and look forward to hearing more of these unabridged recordings of the classics.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

classics, graphic novel, holiday

Graphic Classics Vol. 23: Halloween Classics

Publisher: Eureka Productions
ISBN: 978-0-9825630-5-2
Pages: 144
Price: $17.95

Graphic Classics
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In celebration of this timeless holiday, Graphic Classics has produced a compilation of the best in scary fiction. Stories include:

  • Hallowe’en in a Suburb by H.P. Lovecraft, Illustrated by Jeffrey Johannes
  • Halloween by Mort Castle, Illustreated by Kevin Atkinson
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving, Illustrated by Shepherd Hendrix
  • A Curious Dream by Mark Twain, Illustrated by Nick Miller
  • Lot No. 249 by Arthur Conan Doyle, Illustrated by Simon Gane
  • Cool Air by H.P. Lovecraft, Illustrated by Craig Wilson
  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari by Hans Janowitz & Carl Mayer, Illustrated by Matt Howarth

A unique feature of this collection is a background skit placed between the stories, pulling from Halloween lore and tradition. This newest Graphic Classics book is a treasure-trove of great literature, illustrated in ways that make these gems come alive. I love this series!

Reviewer: Alice Berger

classics, graphic novel

Graphic Classics Vol. 22: African-American Classics

Editor: Tom Pomplun
Publisher: Eureka Productions
Genre: Literary
ISBN: 978-0-9825630-4-5
Pages: 144
Price: $17.95

Graphic Classics
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African-American Classics presents comic adaptations of great stories and poems by America’s earliest black authors, illustrated by contemporary black artists. These adaptations are designed to utilize as much of the author’s original language as possible, while also being visually appealing for an enjoyable read.

Volume 22 includes the following:

  • The Reward by James Weldon Johnson / Illustrated by Mac McGill
  • Two Americans by Florence Lewis Bentley / Illustrated by Trevor Von Eeden
  • On Being Crazy by W.E.B. DuBois / Illustrated by Kyle Baker
  • The Negro by Langston Hughes / Illustrated by Stan Shaw
  • Danse Africaine by Langston Hughes / Illustrated by Afua Richardson
  • A Carnival Jungle by Alice Dunbar Nelson / Illustrated by Lance Tooks
  • The Castaways by Claude McKay / Illustrated by Glenn Brewer
  • America by Claude McKay / Illustrated by John Jennings
  • Lawing and Jawing by Zora Neale Hurston / Illustrated by Arie Monroe
  • Lex Talionis by Robert W. Bagnall / Illustrated by Jim Webb
  • Becky by Jean Toomer / Illustrated by Randy DuBurke
  • In the Matter of Two Men by James D. Corrothers / Illustrated by Kenjji
  • Sympathy by Paul Laurence Dunbar / Illustrated by Lance Tooks
  • We Wear the Mask by Paul Laurence Dunbar / Illustrated by Larry Poncho Brown
  • Buyers of Dreams by Ethel M. Caution / Illustrated by Leilani Hickerson
  • The Bronze Legacy by Effie Lee Newsome / Illustrated by Keith Mallett
  • The Goophered Grapevine by Charles W. Chestnutt / Illustrated by Shepherd Hendrix
  • Sanctum 777 N.S.D.C.O.U Meets Cleopatra by Leila Amos Pendleton  / Illustrated by Kevin J. Taylor
  • De Cunjah Man by James Edwin Campbell / Illustrated by Masheka Wood
  • Filling Station by Zora Neale Hurston / Illustrated by Milton Knight
  • The Ghost of Deacon Brown by James Weldon Johnson / Illustrated by Jeremy Love
  • Aunt Chloe’s Politics by Frances E.W. Harper / Illustrated by Titus V. Thomas
  • Shalmanezer by Frances E.W. Harper / Illustrated by Lance Tooks

Once again, Graphic Classics has created a wonderful collection of stories and illustrations to introduce the modern reader to great African-American literature.  I highly recommend it.

Reviewer:  Alice Berger

classics, mystery

Graphic Classics: Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery

Author: Edgar Allan Poe
Publisher: Eureka Productions
Genre: Mystery
ISBN: 978-0-9825630-2-1
Pages: 144
Price: $17.95

Graphic Classics website
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Edgar Allan Poe is well known for his tales of horror, but he also wrote several mysteries. In this Graphic Classic, Poe’s tales of mystery are presented in graphic illustrated format. The stories included in this compilation include The Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, and The Masque of the Red Death, as well as many others. Illustration styles vary among these stories, based on each artist’s interpretation of the tale.

Although most of us have, at some time, remarked that we really need to read a classic piece of literature, we seldom do. This unique series allows us to read abridged versions, illustrated by some of the best graphic artists. I highly recommend Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery as well as the other Graphic Classic works.

Reviewer: Alice Berger