Anyone who has ever worn a false beard, especially a big, furry ginger one, will know there’s one thing about them that is rather annoying.
Deep in the middle of the audience, eleven-year-old William Shakespeare’s false beard was tickling like crazy.
Willy was wearing it because he was in disguise. And he was in disguise because Sir Victor Vile had ordered that only grown-ups were allowed inside Stratford Theatre for that night’s big show. Which might not have been a problem for Willy…except that the headline act was the Black Skulls, the most exciting travelling theatre group in all of England.
By the Picking of My Nose is the first in a new series from Martin Chatterton about the adventures of William Shakespeare as a child. Willy Waggledagger, as he comes to be known here, is mad keen on the theatre. But it’s a passion not shared by his tanner father. And the theatre owner isn’t that excited by children at the theatre. So Willy pops on his disguise and he’s safe. Or not. His adventures begin with tickling the Queen’s bottom and continue through booger fortune telling by the hags in the kitchen, friendship with yorick, good-luck-charm status with the understudy to a crescendo conclusion. Scattered thickly throughout are references to characters, settings and happenings from Shakespeare’s plays. Each chapter includes a full-page black-and-white illustration.
By the Picking of My Nose takes the reader on a wild romp through Shakespeare’s England. Although very tongue-in-cheek, Chatterton has included some of the sights, smells and culture of the times in his adventure. It’s history, but not as it’s commonly seen. It’s debatable whether the target audience will pick up all the Shakespeare references but it doesn’t really matter. The grand adventure, includes envy, revenge, skulduggery, witchcraft (or is that just the cooking of the time) and nose-picking fortune-telling, as the plot twists and turns and then twists again. Villains are given villainous names but also show their softer side. Seemingly innocuous characters reveal deeper, darker personalities in a fast-moving plot. The font size is large. Recommended for confident mid-primary readers and beyond.
By the Picking of My Nose, Martin Chatterton ill Gregory Rogers
Little Hare 2009
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review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author