I received free copies of four of the books in this series in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.
I've been meaning to get this review put together for about a year now. Yes, I do sometimes get that far behind on, well, everything. And in the last 18 or so months we've had two kids with broken arms, 1 child who needed several months of physical therapy, one kid diagnosed with an anaphylactic allergy, two different children who each had 2 surgeries, 2 new babies added to the family meaning 2 c-sections, one baby spending 3 weeks in the NICU, one baby spending time in the PICU, me being so anemic that I required a blood transfusion, and a deployment thrown in there for good measure. So, um, yes, I have put a few things on the way back burner and just let them simmer away in my mind somewhere until I was able to deal with them. Like this wonderful review.
Playing With Plays is a series of books that takes higher end literature and breaks it down into child friendly language. Each book contains three different versions of the plays, each meant for a different number of actors. As a performance, the plays are designed to be relatively short (15 minutes or less) but creativity is encouraged on the part of the actors.
One major deterrent for many young children and participating in plays is the fear of forgetting lines or not being able to memorize a long script. This problem is alleviated with Playing With Plays. Some of the words within the script are bolded. These words are particularly important to maintaining the character of the original work and are meant to be said as written. The rest of the words are meant to be a guide. Say them as written or get creative and ad-lib. These are the ones my kids had the most fun with during their performance.
At our Homeschool Expo last year, a group of kids performed one of acts from Hamlet. No one got any of their lines exactly right and there were a few times when younger siblings wandered into the play unexpectedly but everyone enjoyed themselves. More importantly, the kids involved understood the gist of the play. Our performers that afternoon ranged in age from 6 to 16. Everyone was able to find a part they could both understand and perform easily.
These books are very affordable at under $10 each. Group discounts are available directly from the publisher if needed. If you are neither charging for the performance nor the classes to learn the play, you are able to use the materials for free and make photo copies of scripts if needed. If you are charging for the classes, you must purchase a book for each student. If you charge for the performance, there is a royalty fee required but it is a very reasonable one.
These books are perfect to use in a homeschool to introduce your younger children to Shakespeare, Dickens, and other classic literature in a very relaxed, fun way.
My only complaint is that there is too much negative, demeaning language thrown into the plays in an attempt to make them relevant to modern kids. I realize that Shakespeare himself wrote quite a few insults in his plays but the modern take on them was a bit beyond the original meanings for a children's version in my opinion.
Overall, these books earn a 4 out of 5 in my book. If the language was a bit less modern, I'd like them even better.