Where's Will? by Anna Claybourne and Tilly

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Where's Will? by Anna Claybourne and Tilly

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Buy Where's Will? by Anna Claybourne and Tilly at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: A fun introduction to the Bard, this neatly explains and illustrates a handful of the best known plays, and makes it fun in the process
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 48 Date: September 2015
Publisher: Ivy Press
ISBN: 978-1782402282

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Shakespeare can be a bit tough for younger readers, and it's a shame because some of the stories are great. Starcrossed lovers, feuding friends, wayward sisters, boys dressed as girls, kings, queens, donkeys – what's not to like? Well, the language for one. While I'm always happy to see a play on stage, I regularly approached our Shakespeare-reading lessons as a chore at school, and that was when I was a teenager. This book targets an even younger audience but it does it in a very clever and accessible way, and if you can't see the plays performed, this is surely the next best thing.

Taking ten of the best known stories, this book neatly summarises the plots and highlights the must-know elements of each. That's just the start, though, because after you've read what's going on, you get to see it in another form. Each story is followed by an illustrated two-page spread, highly detailed and bursting with activity and characters. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find the stars of the play among the many other people on the page. They're hidden, but can you find them? It is, as the name suggests, inspired by the Where's Wally? style of books, only here you're trying to find multiple characters on each page…and Shakespeare himself as well, for he has taken to jumping into his own stories in this edition.

Let's look at the written stories first. It's hard to summarise hundreds of lines of prose into just a few short paragraphs, but they've done a good job here, and the gist of each of the tales certainly comes across. Names are kept in their original form, but the language is updated, so the hardest words you'll actually end up reading are the likes of Octavius, Demetrius and Laertes. It's funny to have a retelling of a classic story, and it does have a bit of an odd feel to it, as if someone is telling you the plot of a play (which of course they are), rather than writing a story from scratch. It's rather informal, and you end up with quite a lot summarised into just a few words, Having lost her father, Ophelia goes mad with grief and drowns. To the point, certainly, and it gets the message across, but I can imagine some Shakespeare enthusiasts turning over in their watery graves.

Each of the stories is illustrated on the page itself, think lots of amorous couples and knife wielding enemies. Then comes the aforementioned two page spread, a possible scene from the play with the main cast and all the supporting players. This is where your eagle eyes come in, though it's not as easy as it could or should be. Unlike with Wally you don't really have distinguishing features to go off, though helpfully on the preceding pages you are shown the people you need to search out, so you have some clue. It's still a little tricky, though, because they've used a distinct colour scheme for each play, so for As You Like It, for example, you're searching for eight people (or animals) in various shades of yellow, green and brown among a sea of other characters, buildings and gardens that too are predominantly yellow, green and brown. For Macbeth it's all muted greys and browns, for A Midsummer Night's Dreams it's a more lively purple and pink pallet and so on. On the plus side, it will take them hours to track everyone down… (and there's answers at the back if you find them stuck and sobbing at their inadequacy). I should say these pages try to put lots of scenes from the story into one, and so you end up with Juliet waving from her balcony while Romeo is lying dead in a tomb, which is not quite how I remember it happening. It's elements of the story, rolled into one which might not be a strictly accurate representation of the order in which things happened, but is still a fun way to see everything at once.

This book ticked a number of boxes for me. It raises general knowledge of Shakespeare to the point of knowing plots and key characters from some of the most popular plays. And it provides a fun activity in spotting the people in the pictures. You spend so long looking you really start to notice all the intricate details of the page.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending us this fun activity book that truly meets its target of making Shakespeare more accessible. For a book that does the same in a different way, check out The Merchant Of Venice (Shakespeare Stories) by Andrew Matthews and Tony Ross

Or, if you really just like to exercise your eyeballs and spot things, we have a range of suggestions including Where's Asterix? by Albert Uderzo and Rene Goscinny, Where's The Penguin? by Sophie Schrey and Where's the Zombie? by Paul Moran and Jen Wainright

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Buy Where's Will? by Anna Claybourne and Tilly at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Where's Will? by Anna Claybourne and Tilly at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Where's Will? by Anna Claybourne and Tilly at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Where's Will? by Anna Claybourne and Tilly at Amazon.com.

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