Monday, October 17, 2011


By Chris Wilson

Murder, treachery, daggers, witches, spells, spirits and suicide –– MACBETH is the classic horror story for Halloween. Stone Arch Books’ Shakespeare Graphics series brings the Bard to life with colorized manga, modern English speckled with original quotes, solid pacing, clear text-art symbiosis, excitement and comprehension.

The book begins with a double truck splash page with the cast of characters so the reader can start the story with character understanding. Told in five acts, the reader begins with the witches three and their murderous plot. Each Act is told in modern English with one original Shakespearean quote intact. Visually the quote is bold and larger than the other text, signifying to the reader that this is original language. In the back of the book is a section for the famous quotes. It gives the speaker, the original quote, a modern translation of the quote, and an explanation of the quote. I found that an excellent addition on the part of the publisher and a very helpful section for teachers whose expertise is outside the high school literature classroom as well as for the reader who may be attempting MACBETH on his own. In addition, there are also discussion questions and writing prompts in the back.

Despite the modern verbiage, the vocabulary and sentence structure is still complex with overtones of old world syntax. It is not a modern retelling, but merely a translation into more modern English.

This was an exciting story, one that will help younger people engage in classic literature and prepare them for the high school and college lit class. With this background knowledge, students will be better prepared to read the original language and spend their time analyzing the intricacies of the Bard, relishing the beauty of his rhyme and meter, and evaluate the deeper themes and implications of his work.

F. Daniel uses colorized manga to tell his tale and infuses it with a panel placement that makes the reader stop, ponder, and infer. He uses sparse backgrounds to control the focus of the story and keep it firmly on character development. Daniel’s illustrations open an avenue for young readers and struggling older students to appreciate character over action and understand how a character can devolve into tragedy over time.

Chris’ Rating: Ages 10 and older
Publisher’s Reading Level: Grades 2-3
Publisher’s Interest Level: Grades 5-9

Shakespeare’s MACBETH is a tragic story of blood, death, and witchcraft. The spell casters in the story are not cast as heroic protagonists as in the HARRY POTTER series. I suspect those who object to magic in their child’s stories and movies may not object to MACBETH because the magicians are evil.

Many years ago educator and author, Rafe Esquith, instilled in me the desire to teach Shakespeare to elementary students. Unlike Esquith, who holds classes before and after the official school day as well as Saturday instruction, I am not ready or able to teach the original Bard to that age group. It would certainly take a concentrated effort of extended school times both during the week and the weekends to accomplish such a beautiful task. However, my take on Esquith’s work is to teach Shakespeare to elementary or early middle school kids using comics with a variety of textual approaches from original language to modern English. Stone Arch’s MACBETH is a dynamite title from which to launch such an endeavor.

I think students could explore the depths of fiction and discover a love for the types of literary deconstruction, evaluation and interpretation that occurs on the high school and college level. It all begins with a basic understanding of language, character, and universal themes. Using a modern English translation with a few original Shakespearean quotes, students can begin to grasp the language of literature and approach classic literature in the high school and college classroom with a different outlook.

Original Author: William Shakespeare
Retold by: Martin Powell
Illustrator: F. Daniel
Publisher: Stone Arch Press
Genre: Traditional Literature

Format: Reinforced Library Binding
Pages: 88
Color: Full color
ISBN-13: 978-1-4342-2506-1

Highly Recommended

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say that your review of this book was exactly--EXACTLY what I was hoping to see. You really get it, and it shows. The time and effort we put into this series was gargantuan, so I'm beyond thrilled that you think these would work well for introducing the younger sect to Shakespeare. That was the plan with these all along: don't water them down, be faithful to the original plays, and present them in a way that primes kids for tackling the plays later on in life. I read this review a few weeks ago and it made my month--really, I mean it.

Great blog you have here! It's really been a fantastic resource for me.

- Sean Tulien (editor, Stone Arch Books)