A Horse With Wings (And Other Songs for Children), by Daeshin Kim, has all the qualities of “sleeper.” For those who do not know, a sleeper is a book or movie that, from its simple title, seems that it would be an ordinary product–but once you encounter it, it’s anything but ordinary. It is, in fact, a surprise hit.
The book and its accompanying music CD is a collection of original songs written and arranged by Mr. Kim, which introduce, explain and/or expound on passages and characters from the revered works of William Shakespeare.
For example, Mr. Kim takes the well-known line, “Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him,” and helps children understand Shakespeare’s deeper meaning behind the phrase by composing a song that explains who Yorick was and what a fun personality he had.
The lyrics, written in past tense, help children understand the tone in which the narrator speaks of Yorick; the sadness because the poor man is no more; he is deceased. There is also a colorful illustration of Yorick in bright, almost jester-like clothing carrying a laughing boy on his back. I must admit, this particular song made me smile, because it was much easier for even I—a well-read writer—to understand what was happening in the Shakespearean tale.
Many other passages are explained in much the same way. For example, the line, “O, ‘tis a foul thing when a cur cannot keep himself in all companies!” would be difficult enough to decipher, if not for artist Sohyun An Kim’s illustration. She offers a portrait of a dog that has made a mess on the floor while the people in the room point and angrily insist that it be taken away. This illustration is reinforced by the song, Smelly Dog, in which the singer reveals how his foul-smelling dog upsets everyone whose nose comes in contact with it.
Among Mr. Kim’s original lyrics and music (many performed by his own daughter), my personal favorite is That’s the Part That You Play, written and arranged to expound on this Shakespearean passage,
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.”
Admittedly, the typical child would have a challenge understanding this passage, but not with Mr. Kim’s help. I quite enjoyed his treatment; illustrations showing the seven ages referenced in the passage (baby, schoolboy, lover, soldier, grown-up, old man and grandfather), and what is happening in each stage. I found the lyrics and illustrations moving, and am convinced they will help even the youngest child understand the various stages of life.
A Horse With Wings is a great book that is part of a greater idea to bring the world of Shakespeare to the very young.
As an educational tool, it can introduce music and life concepts to the very young; it can introduce the wonderful and often mysterious world of Shakespeare to the middle grades, and it can serve as a supplemental textbook for those forward-thinking teachers who are searching for ways to accelerate learning.
Best wishes and happy Shakespearing,