Who am I? Only a daughter?
A Capulet, wed to my father’s choice?
No! I am the girl who chose her destiny,
whose love outlasts the sun.
I am Juliet.
The story is not you – Romeo and Juliet, star-crossed lovers who fall in love in spite of their families being sworn enemies, but are tragically destined not to be together in this life. But though we know the story, do we really know who these people are? In I am Juliet Jackie French tells the story as it hasn’t been told before, allowing the reader to get to know Juliet as a person, as a strong girl who questions and challenges her destiny.
In the course of just a few days, Juliet grows and changes, becoming stronger and more likeable. At the same time, readers are given a better understanding of the whole story – the times in which it is set and the societal structures which would have led to such a circumstance. The story is chiefly told from Juliet’s perspective, but is bookended by chapters from the perspective of Rob, a boy actor given the role of Juliet to play in Shakespeare’s company. This allows readers both to see how his attitude is shaped by getting to know the character, as well as some idea of the workings of theatre at the time. Back of book notes give further insights.
Readers need have no knowledge of the play to engage with the novel, but it would act as an excellent complement to studies of the play, giving the characters, especially Juliet, a more human perspective.
I am Juliet, by Jackie French
Angus & Robertson, 2014
Available from good bookstores or online.
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
This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
Horatio stared at him. The flickering light of the candles in the dark draughty room made the prince’s face almost demonic. Through the cloverleaf window in the stone wall Bernardo saw one distant star. Then it went out.
Hamlet was staring back at Horatio.
At last Horatio said, ‘We think we saw your father.’
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Hamlet’s father, the king, has died, and Hamlet’s mother has quickly remarried, to the new king, Hamlet’s uncle. But Hamlet has been visited by the ghost of his father, who claims he has been murdered and urges Hamlet to take revenge.
This is not a new story – it is, of course, a retelling of the famous play by Shakespeare. Master writer John Marsden remoulds the story staying true to the plot of the play but rediscovering the characters, giving them depth, and retouching the events to give them further layers. Fans of the play will not feel cheated by the changes, but will rather be delighted by the interpretation, whilst those new to the play will enjoy the story for its own sake.
Hamlet, by John Marsden
Text Publishing, 2008