The animals at the Stratford Zoo are at it again! When the zookeepers leave, they hit the stage for their latest play, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Sure, it stars a rooster and a young bear as the titular characters, but the central conflict shines through and teaches the young animals in the audience a very important lesson.
To be honest, Romeo and Juliet may be my least favorite of Shakespeare’s plays because of the instant romantic connection between the two teens. Lendler manages to make me appreciate aspects of the plot, though, by converting the romance to friendship between disparate species, a rooster from a petting zoo who only knows the freedom of a fenced yard and a young bear who has never been confined. Like Macbeth, the more gruesome parts of the story are toned down to a PG level, but it doesn’t alter the most basic message about acceptance of difference and letting go of past slights. Paris’ conversion to a foppish lion invited to Juliet’s residence for a lavish playdate coaxed chortles out of me, and turning the apothecary into a vet clinic in the final act is just inspired.
Zack Giallongo’s artwork continues to be wonderfully wacky and enjoyable in this second installment, and readers should continue to look for little sight gags. He also painstakingly created full pages of actors’ notes after the main story (They might also be some of the most hilarious content in the entire graphic novel!), which may have taken more time than the regular pages.
I still don’t love Romeo and Juliet, but this version pleased me a lot more than the original work. This is a wonderful addition to the Stratford Zoo series, and I highly recommend it to anyone with literary minded kids or Shakespeare lovers who are young at heart.
5 Vultures Aging Ungracefully out of 5