Monday, March 7, 2016

Will's Words: How William Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk

Will's Words: How William Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk
written by Jane Sutcliffe; illustrated by John Shelley
2016 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

It all started with a waving flag. At about one o'clock in the afternoon, a banner was raised from the playhouse roof. 

William Shakespeare apparently can't stand for someone else to write about him. Drama king. Why am I hatin' on the Bard? Glad you asked. Author Jane Sutcliffe is trying to do a good deed and write about the playwright and his home court, The Globe. Unfortunately, Shakespeare keeps interrupting the process with his words. Sutcliffe writes about how Londoners loved a good play and couldn't get too much of a good thing. That phrase comes from As You Like It, a Shakespeare comedy. She explained how some play attendees simply came to show off their clothing and didn't worry about getting their money's worth by actually watching the play. Act 2, Scene 1 of Love's Labour's Lost is where you will find that phrase. Writing about Stratford-on-Avon's famous son, or writing about anything, can be almost impossible without using his words.

This book is blooming brilliant. It received a starred review from School Library Journal and certainly deserves it. On the left side of each spread is a text box that explains the workings of the playwright's world in the 16th and 17th centuries. Expertly woven into each box is a sample of words created or popularized by Shakespeare. A box on the right side lists the phrase, what it means, and cites the play and context where the phrase appears. You can see an example below.


As stated by other reviewers, the illustrations are a feast similar to what Waldo would look like if dropped into London of the 1600s. There is so much detail in this artwork that you keep going back again and again. Author's notes on the front and back ends and a time line complete the book. If you face an argument as to why we need to learn about William Shakespeare, this book would be a fantastic ally. I would so use this as my introductory piece to a unit on Shakespeare. All's well that ends well!

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