Ira's Shakespeare's Dream

Ira's Shakespeare's Dream
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Release Date
August 15, 2015
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Ira Aldridge dreamed of being on stage one day performing the great works of William Shakespeare. He spent every chance he got at the local theaters, memorizing each actor s lines for all of Shakespeare s plays. Ira just knew he could be a great Shakespearean actor if only given the chance. But in the early 1800s, only white actors were allowed to perform Shakespeare. Ira s only option was to perform musical numbers at the all-black theater in New York city. Despite being discouraged by his teacher and father, Ira determinedly pursued his dream and set off to England, the land of Shakespeare. There, Ira honed his acting skills and eventually performed at the acclaimed Theatre Royal Haymarket. Through perseverance and determination, Ira became one of the most celebrated Shakespearean actors throughout Europe. Illustrated by award-winning artist Floyd Cooper, Ira s Shakespeare Dream is a captivating tribute to the inspiring life of Ira Aldridge, and to the renowned works of William Shakespeare.

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Becoming an actor is one good way to irritate your family, and in the early 1800s, Ira's father would really rather he become a minister. Ira loves the stage, however, and is especially fond of Shakespeare. Since he is free, he is able to work for the African Grove theater in New York, but has a close call with slave traders who want to buy him. Frustrated by his limited possibilities, and not wanting to go to ministry college, Ira goes to London. There, he manages to find roles after working very hard to perfect his craft, and he was also able to share the story of the plight of African Americans in the US.
Good Points
This is a great biography about a very renowned actor who is hardly known today. Armnad does a great job at constructing believable scenes from his life as they most likely happened. The illustrations by Cooper are dramatic, and yet tinged with a sepia-toned sadness. Like many picture book biographies, this is really for older children, due to the length and challenging text, but would be great to share with younger classes as well.

I am not surprised that Lee & Low Books were able to herald an African American "celebrity figure" from history in a respectful and informative way!
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