Review : Pop-Up Shakespeare

A long, long time ago, when my kids were still in single digits, I had a pop-up book featuring Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. I used to take it in to their classrooms as a prop.  I knew it had made an impact when a few months ago, my oldest daughter – who is now driving, and looking at colleges – came to me and said, “Do we still have that pop up book? I want to bring it in to class.”

So when I heard about Candlewick Press’ Pop-Up Shakespeare (by Jennie Maizels and the Reduced Shakespeare Company) I reached out to see if I could review it. They were happy to oblige!

I admit that it’s been a little while since I’ve purchased pop up books for my kids, but I have to say that this is one of the best I’ve seen. Let’s start with the amount of information provided. It covers everything (*). I learned things. We get some bio on Shakespeare himself, we get all the plays – including the questionable authorship plays – and we get the long poems.

Surely for a book with that much information it must be densely packed, right? Right. In a fascinating way. Much of the book is “lift the flap” style, and each spread is dominated by a huge, two-page pop up feature. But ready for the twist? The text is on both sides of the pop up, rotated accordingly. It’s hard to explain, but the best way is to think of this as a book to put down on the table and have the kids gather around from all angles and take turns reading what they see, because there’s stuff about Shakespeare just literally all over the place.

This would have been a great prop for me back in my volunteering days. If you’re still in that place, where you’ve got an audience that will enthusiastically gather around to start exploring things that pop up and looking for flaps to lift, I think this one is an excellent choice. I really do love that they covered everything everything. It would have been so easy to consider the audience for a book like this as not being old enough for Titus Andronicus or Timon of Athens, and spend all of its time on Midsummer or Romeo and Juliet. If you believe that you’re never too young to learn about the whole breadth of Shakespeare’s work, these authors are on your side.

(*) “The gift is small, the will is all: Alexander Aspinall.”  I may have heard that once upon a time? But it was definitely a surprise to see it referenced in this book. Gives you just a little idea of how much information is hiding under those flaps.

POP-UP SHAKESPEARE. Text copyright © 2017 by Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor. Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Jennie Maizels. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, London.
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Weird Flexeth, But Ok (A Geeklet Story)

Cleopatra was definitely not baked into a pie.

Be me, on a typical school day, bustling around getting the kids breakfast as they get ready for school.  My middle announces, “Did I tell you my Shakespeare story?”

Everything stops, of course.  Well, more to the point everything I’m doing stops, while my wife kind of gives me the, “Seriously?” look since stuff’s still got to get done.

“Do tell,” I reply. “The very fact that you brought it up means this is going to be a blog post.”

“Ok,” she says, putting down her spoon. “Well, my friends and I the other day are talking, and somehow Shakespeare comes up, you know.”

“Sure, sure. I know the feeling.”

“And then my friend is all,” cue dripping fawning voice, “Oh, I *love* Shakespeare, I just *love* Romeo and Juliet and Midsummer’s Night’s Dream!” At this point she switches to brainy smirk, rolls up her sleeves, and begins.  “Well, I said to her, do you know Othello? Hmm?  How about Winter’s Tale? Or Titus Androkinus?”

My oldest and I exchange a glance and a laugh at that one.  Middle continues, “Have *you* ever read the one where the husband bakes his wife into a pie? Hmmm???”

“Wait, what?” I ask.

“That’s Cleopatra,” says my oldest.

“Wait, WHAT?”  I ask.

“Isn’t there one about Cleopatra and her husband?”

Antony and Cleopatra, yes?”

“Isn’t that the one she’s talking about?”

“…???…NO?!”

It’s funny how sometimes the facts get garbled.  I explain that Titus baked the sons of his enemy into a pie.  I still have no idea where they got baking his wife – nor the connection with Antony and Cleopatra.

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Wrong Play (But I Can Understand The Confusion)

Fun bit of Shakespeare Geekery on Reddit today when I spotted too late this “Tip of My Tongue” post:

In it there’s a specific scene in which all the characters repeat how they feel about each other a bunch of times with all of them stating how they feel affection for one of the people in the group who does not feel for them.

One of the characters may have an injured arm and I think one of them kept on ending the repeating cycle of lines with something like “and I for no man”

I think I remember one of the characters MIGHT have been a girl dressing up as a guy but I’m not completely sure

By the time I spotted this post somebody had replied, “Twelfth Night?” to which the original poster said, “Solved! That’s the one.”  He even shot down suggestions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Much Ado About Nothing as not being the correct answer.

Astute geeks will no doubt see the problem. He is describing, to a T, that other cross-dressing romantic comedy, As You Like It.  Orlando has entered with a broken arm, Rosalind is dressed as a boy, everybody declares their love for the wrong person, and Rosalind is the one who keeps “ending the repeating cycle of lines” with, “and I for no woman”:

SILVIUS
It is to be all made of sighs and tears;
And so am I for Phebe.

PHEBE
And I for Ganymede.

ORLANDO
And I for Rosalind.

ROSALIND
And I for no woman.

SILVIUS
It is to be all made of faith and service;
And so am I for Phebe.

PHEBE
And I for Ganymede.

ORLANDO
And I for Rosalind.

ROSALIND
And I for no woman.

It’s getting so you can’t tell one girl dressed as boy comedy from the next! 🙂

 

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I Said Introduction, Not Induction! ( A Geeklet Story )

My daughter’s in an honest to goodness 100% full-time Shakespeare class now.  It’s been a long time coming.  They’re starting right out with Taming of the Shrew, and already she’s lost.

“I have to annotate the Induction,” she tells me.

I’d completely forgotten about the Induction.  In all the times I’ve told them the story, I don’t think I’d ever mentioned it.

“Oh yeah,” I reply.  “So there’s this dude, Christopher Sly, who is the drunk at the local bar.  It starts out with him arguing with the hostess about breaking some glasses, then he promptly passes out. A lord comes back from the hunt, sees him sleeping in the street, and says, ‘Hey, you know what would be fun? Let’s take him home and dress him in my clothes and tell him he’s actually the lord of the house.’ Have you ever heard the term gaslighting?  They totally gaslight him.  Anyway, he’s not really buying it, until they tell him he’s married, so his first reaction is to say Great! Wife? Let’s go to bed!”

“Oh, charming.”

“Exactly.  They talk him out of it, though. Meanwhile, there are these roving players who run into the original lord and ask if he wants to see a show, so he sends them over to his house to put a show on for Christopher Sly.  That show is Taming of the Shrew.  And, then, basically, Christopher Sly is never heard from again.  Well, he comes back briefly after the first scene or something, but that’s about it. You’re probably going to get tested on why he wrote it, and that’s a good question. There’s a variety of theories.  He didn’t write like that for any other play.”

“Yeah, well,” she says, flipping through her copy, “I didn’t get any of that from this.” Reading, “I’ll feeze you in faith? A pair of stocks you rogue?” She pronounces it “rouge,” like makeup. “How am I supposed to get from that that he’s arguing with the lady at the bar?”

Slowly but surely she works her way through the induction, which she first thinks goes 20 pages until I insist that she read it again and she realizes that every other page is vocabulary, so it’s only 10 pages of content.

So today at dinner she fills me in on how well she fared on that assignment.

“So it turns out,” she says, “that while I was out of class one day last week, she gave out this packet that was an introduction to the play. We were supposed to annotate THAT!”

 

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The Return of Some Guy From New York

You know, it’s easy to forget how long I’ve been doing this.  Going all the way back to 2006 I linked to a podcast called Some Guy From New York. The gimmick was that he’d been sentenced to community service teaching Shakespeare, and he was working his way through the sonnets, analyzing each one.

That was a long time ago, and his is not the first Shakespeare podcast to come and go. But a funny thing happened this time.  Several different people over the years found their way to that post and asked if there was any way to get in touch with the creator.

I do love a challenge.  I was able to contact Jason Pomerantz, the original Some Guy From New York, and asked if he’d like me to re-host the original podcast files for him.

So, I am very happy to present the new home for the original 48 episodes of the Some Guy From New York podcast! Here’s to a whole new audience rediscovering Jason’s excellent work.  Who knows, maybe he’ll be motivated to come out of retirement?

(Still gotta do something about that Yankees hat, though….)

 

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