Romeo + Juliet - by Timbuktu

App review by
Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Media
Romeo + Juliet - by Timbuktu App Poster Image
Loose telling of tragedy too dark for its intended audience.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn the basic plot and characters in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, though the story line is quite altered. The modernized and simplified language may inspire kids to develop their own writing styles or to adapt other classic words into their language. The story is read aloud, but words aren't highlighted as they're read and can't be tapped for a repeat. Romeo + Juliet - by Timbuktu is a visually stunning retelling that's a real mismatch for its intended audience; its dumbed-down version will infuriate Shakespeare purists and confuse kids. 

Ease of Play

The only navigation option is forward or backward, one page at a time.

Violence

The fighting in the plot is true to the story, with Romeo and Juliet dying at the end in one version along with Tybalt and Mercutio being killed.

Sex

Romeo and Juliet's romance includes a kiss, and Juliet is being forced into a marriage she doesn't want.

Language

Name-calling between Tybalt and Romeo includes "stupid," "dumb," and "dummy."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Romeo + Juliet - by Timbuktu is an interactive book interpretation of Shakespeare's play -- a very loose interpretation that reads like a cross between Dr. Seuss and a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Just as in the original tale, the star-crossed lovers kill themselves, which isn't a theme that translates well for kids, even with pictures and rhymes. In this interactive version, though, the reader gets to help Romeo by mixing the poison. One choice makes an ineffective poison, changing the whole story and turning this classic tragedy into a happily-ever-after. That's just wrong. Although the illustrations are beautiful, the language adapted for younger kids, and the age recommendation for kids age 6 to 8, the mature suicide theme makes this one a story best saved for tweens and teens.

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What's it about?

This brief 20-page interactive picture-book is a retelling of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet using hip, modern rhyme ("Mercutio goes postal") and simple, mostly black-and-white illustrations. The interactions are simple, too; for example, a click turns on a brief musical passage and moves an illustration around on-screen. The main interaction comes at the end of the story. The reader chooses a bug or a pear to mix into Romeo's poison, and the choice determines the ending, but no matter the choice, the story can be played again with the opposite selection.

Is it any good?

ROMEO + JULIET - BY TIMBUKTU may be appreciated by teens (and parents) who are familiar with the play, but the dark tale is probably not suitable for many kids. Shakespearean language is totally absent, and the plot is really obscured by the choose-your-own ending. Although it seems fun, it may taint the story for future readers. For an interactive book, the interactions are minimal, and the sound options are limited. Read-aloud narration can be turned off by tapping the sound icon on the page, but it doesn't carry over page to page, and the read-aloud starts again automatically with every page turn. There's no way to skip directly to a certain page or episode within the book, either. Using illustrations and kid-friendly language to make Shakespeare more accessible to kids is a noble idea, but it would be better using a more kid-friendly work such as Midsummer Night's Dream than the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the story of Romeo and Juliet and the different versions and interpretations they've seen in movies, music videos, books, and other media.

  • Talk to your kids about Shakespeare's language. Sometimes it can be hard to understand it, but lots of people think it's worth it to try. Ask if your kids have stuck with a book that was a little difficult. Were they glad they made it to the end? Why? 

App details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love Shakespeare

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