I read this in my eighth grade English class since I was 'still too young for Shakespeare' but 'too old for Magic Tree House books'. (The scare quotes indicate my contempt for such arbitrary reading level classifications. I'm pretty sure I could have handled Romeo and Juliet
in eighth grade.)
Everyone in my class thought I was a "genius" because I was (and I quote) "reading Shakespeare"; they didn't realize that I was only reading 7-pages summaries of his plays. Well, close enough, right?
Why would someone want to write a book consisting solely of Shakespeare summaries? Why not just read his actual plays? Of course, wasn't Charles Lamb (or was it Mary?) declared insane? I suppose that might have helped. Seriously though, it's not as if Lamb's prose is much easier to understand than Shakespeare's verse; in fact, the Lambs remove all the fun stuff, the lewd jokes and ironic humour that we've come to expect from The Bard.
Perhaps the Lambs were writing for a younger audience, but people don't usually give ten-year-olds a Cliffs' Notes version of Moby-Dick
, do they? If a kid wants to read Gulliver's Travels
, would you instead point him to the Wikipedia summary or (worse yet) the movie version?
The Lambs are good writers and competent summarizers, so you're not exactly being subjected to drivel. But if you're a young reader who's ambitious enough to try Shakespeare, I'd say you're ambitious enough to try the real thing.