Romeo & Juliet – Retold by Jim Pipe, Illustrated by Penko Gelev
Book House, UK, 2014
via INT Books (Tom Danby)
48 pp. RRP $15.95
If, as I have just experienced, you have students who struggle with Shakespeare, this series could prove a valuable complement to your collection. My Year 10 boys have just done a unit on Romeo & Juliet and while we steered clear of reading the play in full, instead selecting passages, watching the film, live performance from Grin & Tonic and so on, many still had some problems.
I took this slim graphic volume in for them to look at, and several commented that they now understood a particular part or made notes using the book.
Firstly, the graphic format breaks the play down in a storyboard type format which is easy to follow. Secondly, while the ‘speech’ is still Shakespearean, there are footnotes to ‘translate’ into modern day language. This running glossary is probably the most beneficial aspect of this version. Additionally there are several pages at the back with information about Shakespeare, his work and his times plus an index. A useful page as a frontispiece, pictures the characters with their names and relationship to Romeo and Juliet.
The only disconcerting note for me is the illustrator’s tendency to have the characters look like muddy-faced trolls – Juliet is far from attractive as she scowls with her troll-face to swallow her potion. In fact, they all look very unpleasant – whether they are the good guys or not!
That being said I think this would be very handy for those students who need a simplified version and visual connection to help them grasp the main ideas and themes of Shakespeare. Others in this series included A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Julius Caesar and The Merchant of Venice. There are also other classic stories published in the same format – see the publisher’s page here,