ISBN 10: 0732298539
Imprint: HarperCollins – AU
RRP 16.99 AUD
Macbeth has been my favourite Shakespearean play ever since studying it at school and being taken to a very atmospheric production for an excursion. Of course I knew that Shakespeare had totally fibbed about the whole thing but then he wasn’t a chronicler of history, he was a showman and storyteller. Like Jackie French I too got to play the Third Witch as a 15 year old schoolgirl but not in the actual play but a school production of Happy as Larry, which was loosely based on the original. I don’t remember much about it except we were a screaming success (of course!) except it was directed by the divine Mr Herlinger, my English and Ancient History teacher on whom I had a huge crush. But I digress…
Annie Grasseyes’ rise from lowly village girl to friend and confidante of Lady Macbeth forms the basis of this novel. Her involvement with her mistress’ plotting and planning starts out almost innocently but as time goes by Annie is drawn deeper and deeper into a vortex of evil deeds.
With her indisputable skill Jackie weaves the story with threads from Shakespeare’s own memorable phrases and a close knowledge of everyday life in medieval England, combining these with a story of a young girl mesmerised by luxury and power.
The themes of loyalty, love, betrayal, superstition, and power reflect the original but strips it down to what it truly was – an account of greed and treachery.
At times Annie almost becomes unlikeable as she constantly (and naively) supports the wickedness of her Lady, but her uncompromising loyalty is admirable and it extends to her family, resulting in her being torn between these.
This is a beautiful rendering of the original play and will bring the beauty of Shakespeare’s language to a new audience as well as entrancing them with the simplicity with which a person can find they are embroiled in the very worst of circumstances.
Highly recommended for those readers who relish historical fiction whether they be WS lovers or not. Suitable for ten years upwards.
Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s
Hast thou ever feared the imminent arrival of strange googly-eyed alien monsters? Dost thou fret over total destruction of the known world by hideous extra-terrestrials of extraordinary ugliness?
You may rest assured that the solution is at hand. Join Sid, his little sister Wendy and evil-genius neighbour aka the Mighty Professor Skeletron as they thwart an alien invasion caused by Sid’s astounding adaptation of Romeo & Juliet for a school assignment.
When Mr Pilchard, Sid’s vile teacher, threatens the class and especially Sid of dire consequences should they not produce their best piece of creative writing ever, Sid seeks inspiration and advice from the evil-genius. Mighty Professor Skeletron’s psychic cat directs Sid’s attention to the works of Shakespeare, greatest writer of all time.
The trouble lies in the fact that Sid makes his story just too similar to the original and mayhem ensues as he reads aloud his prize-winning story instigating a chain of events that sees the intrepid trio travelling in time via potato power to redress the catastrophe. Changing the course of history has never been so simple or so hilarious!
Kids from around 8 and up will love this latest offering from the talented Falk and Flowers duo. Highly recommended for your primary library shelves!
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,