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[Nonfiction Wednesday] Unraveling The Woven Words of William Shakespeare in Picturebooks

"Will's Words: How William Shakespeare Changed The Way You Talk" by Jane Sutcliffe and Illustrated by John Shelley | "Where's Will? Find Shakespeare Hidden In His Plays" by Anna Claybourne and Illustrated by Tilly

Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2018 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, when we can.

Once again, I am over-reaching here, as I share two picturebooks about William Shakespeare. In truth, they are perfect for our current reading theme, given how most of Shakespeare’s plays are filled with murder and mayhem, guilt and tragedy. It will be good to unravel the mysteries of what makes his works effective and oh-so-timeless.


Will’s Words: How William Shakespeare Changed The Way You Talk

Written by Jane Sutcliffe Illustrated by John Shelley
Published by Charlesbridge (2016)
ISBN-10: 1580896383
ISBN-13: 9781580896382
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This is not a picturebook biography of Shakespeare, but more a biography of his words – the phrases or words that Sutcliffe had traced back to Shakespeare, and how he popularized them through his plays.

Sutcliffe also provided a brief overview of what London was like during Shakespeare’s period, and how most of the people regarded going to the theatre as their primary recreation. Apparently: “As many as eighteen thousand people a week made their way to the city’s playhouses. That’s nearly one in every ten Londoners.” That, in itself, I found to be an amazing fact.

I also love the format of the entire book. On the lefthand page, the author described something about Shakespeare or London, using specific phrases or words (such as wild-goose chase for instance); then on the right-hand page, there is a short definition of the phrase, and the play where it was used, and from which act and scene it came from. Cool, right?

The image above is one of my favourites from the entire book. I have a feeling budding linguists would enjoy this book, as well as anyone who is familiar with Shakespeare’s works.


Where’s Will? Find Shakespeare Hidden In His Plays

Written by Anna Claybourne Illustrated by Tilly
Published by Kane Miller (2015)
ISBN-10: 1610674073
ISBN-13: 9781610674072
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

From the title, the reader can already guess that there’s a Where’s Waldo vibe to the entire book.

What I appreciated about it, though, was how Claybourne and Miller summarized ten of Shakespeare’s most popular plays into just two pages: from As You Like It to Hamlet, from Antony and Cleopatra to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The challenge is to find the characters of the play on the next full-page spread, and to find William Shakespeare, too, hiding somewhere.

As I read the two-page summary of each play, I remembered what turned me off most of Shakespeare’s plays – too many characters who are disguising themselves, increasing the number of names the reader has to recall to make sense of what is going on.

I am still hopeful that there will come a point in time when I would just binge-read all of Shakespeare’s plays. And when (not if) I do that, I will make sure I have Tilly and Claybourne’s book on hand.


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1 comment on “[Nonfiction Wednesday] Unraveling The Woven Words of William Shakespeare in Picturebooks

  1. Will’s Words sounds absolutely delightful. Just added it to the TBR.

    Liked by 1 person

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