Kids will likely still appreciate the humor here as much as in the Zoo’s version of Macbeth. Adults familiar with Shakespeare’s version may find the switch from “true love” to “best friend” jarring and might find themselves wondering why Juliet cannot have two best friends. In fact, the one best friend only message is counter-productive.
In other ways, the book offers lively humor and a good, strong message about overcoming preconceptions. It also shows that friendship can happen between unexpected people—between a rooster and a bear, or a lamb and a monkey, if people are willing.
And there is plenty of humor to be had, from the battle over the cake to Romeo’s suggestion that he call himself “Awesome Bob” if the name “Romeo” is a problem. Ideal bear manners are different enough to bring a chuckle; the three S’s are “Smile, Sincere, Slaughter your own food.” Peeing in the woods is ideal The end of page notes are going to make adults laugh as well, with commentary on Shakespearean times mixed in with questions about which zoo animals can cooperate enough to be on stage. And there is wordplay and commentary on the nature of poetry worked in among the silliness.
Zack Giallongo’s art balances character, anthropomorphizing, and keeping the animals as animals. Romeo is a most expressive rooster and Juliet the bear charming, especially when she is strutting like a rooster. There is also a vulture wearing a hamster toupe and a host of other small jokes and amusements.
While Macbeth was the stronger of the two entries in the Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue, Romeo and Juliet has its own charms and will certainly amuse fans of the former book.