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New Book Release – Will’s Words

Wow, busy April! The 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death is almost upon us and things have been very hectic here in the studio, hence my silence on the blog.

Will’s Words: How William Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk was officially launched on 22nd March in the USA, and widely distributed in the UK.

Written by Jane Sutcliffe, illustrated by yours truly.  ISBN 9781580896382,  40 pages long Published by Charlesbridge (Penguin/Random House US), and distributed in the UK through PGUK.

Following my previous collaboration with Jane Sutcliffe Stone Giant, this book was another very involved project which occupied a great part of my activity last year. I’ve always had a big fascination for the 17th Century, so it’s no surprise the research alone completely sucked me into the era (more on this in a future post!)

The narrative describes London in 1606, how the Bankside theatres were the entertainment focus points of their day, and one playwright stood out more than any other – William Shakespeare.

However, as Jane relates the story of The Globe, she finds that whatever she tries to write William ‘gets in the way’ – the text is punctuated with words and phrases coined by Shakespeare himself. Expressions such as ‘excitement’, ‘a sorry sight’, ‘wild goose chase’, ‘cold-blooded’, ‘amazement’, these all come down to us from Shakespeare through his plays to become ‘household words’ (another expression invented by the Bard). Jane uses these and many other Shakespeare expressions and explains their origins in the plays, while my illustrations form the background and setting of London life and the Globe in the early 1600’s.

I’ll post about some of the research and processes shortly, in the meantime the first reviews are in!

“Shelley’s meticulously detailed painted pen-and-ink drawings brim with life and convey a clear sense of 1606 London, “a bustling, jostling, clinging, singing, stinking, head-chopping, pickpocketing wonder of a city,” while still managing to individualize the personages both onstage and off. They are perfectly married to Sutcliffe’s concise, humorous, fact-filled prose” (School Library Journal starred review,  Spring 2016 selection)

“Shakespeare could turn a phrase, and Sutcliffe brings a number of them to readers’ attention, smartly worked into a vestpocket history of London theater during Shakespeare’s days. Shelley’s artwork is a lively accompaniment, delicate in color and linework but bustling as only a big population in small confines can be.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Each spread is crowded with intricate, colorful details that seem to spring to life in, for instance, a cutaway of backstage actions, the crowd arriving for an afternoon’s performance, how different social classes positioned themselves during the play, London street scenes, and so on. These watercolor and pen-and-ink images invite endless searching of the crowds’ unique faces and Thames River vistas” (Booklist)

The Guardian ran a pre-launch gallery of some of the artwork here.

As the Shakespeare anniversary approaches I plan to be out and about with Will’s Words in the UK, so do get in touch if you’d like me to be involved in your Shakespeare celebration! Jane Sutcliffe is touring New England bookshops this month, if you’re in the US please check the upcoming events page of her website for dates.

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