Friday, March 3, 2017

PPBF: Will's Words

Don't forget to enter the second annual #50PreciousWords contest going on now over at Vivian Kirkfield's blog, Picture Books Help Kids Soar.

Check Thursday's post to read my entry, "The Ballad of Mary Fields."

Now on to today's Perfect Picture Book Friday pick

Will's Words, by Jane Sutcliffe and John Shelley
Will's Words:
How William Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk

Written by Jane Sutcliffe
Illustrated by John Shelley

Charlesbridge, 2016
Ages 7-10, 750L
40pp, 3400 words

Non-fiction, Vocabulary/Writing, Theater/Arts, History/Biography

In 1606 London was a bustling, jostling, clanging, singing, stinking, head-chopping, pickpocketing wonder of a city. You would probably need a break from a city like that.
That's why London was also a play-going city. There was a play going on every day of the week except Sunday. Sometimes there were two or three.
When it came to plays, people in London thought you couldn't have too much of a good thing.

What it Means:
More of something good may be bad. (If you've ever eaten a whole bag of gummy worms at once, you already know what this means.)

Where it Comes From:
As You Like It, Act 4, scene 1
A woman teases her boyfriend that if one boyfriend is good, twenty must be even better. Or is that too much of a good thing?

In her opening author's note, Jane Sutcliffe apologizes to the reader for having failed as an author. She set out to write a book about the Globe Theatre, but she ended up using so many of William Shakespeare's own words that she decided to write a book about the Bard instead. This book incorporates theater terms, historical details, and biographical information, but it's mostly about how Shakespeare's work influenced people's thoughts and language. On the left-hand pages, the text tells how the theater fit into daily life. (using many of Will's words, of course, printed in bold.) on the facing pages, the author defines Will's words or phrases, often giving examples, as well as detailing which play the words were used in. The back matter includes another author's note, a timeline of Shakespeare's life and extensive bibliography.

What I Love:
Sutcliffe subtlety demonstrates how a living language evolves and how popular media stimulates that change. The text's jaunty rhythm is infused with humor. She introduces the origins of the "wild-goose chase", explains what it means to get your "money's worth", and how "too much of a good thing" (like gummy worms) does not lead to our "heart's content." John Shelley's illustrations pair lively ink line with jewel tone watercolor reminiscent of stained glass. His accurately detailed drawings switch point of view, first high above the city, then down in the Pit with the commoners, from intricate backstage dressing rooms to scenes of bustling London, looking like a page from Where's Waldo. The author shows how a heavy subject, handled lightly, can connect with modern readers. While she planned to write the history of one place and time, she instead accomplishes the remarkable task of making kids notice and care about words.

And that's the short and the long of it.

I found instructions for a paper ruff from the Dayton Art Institute
1. Don't miss Jane Sutcliffe's teacher pages. There you'll find puzzle worksheets, questions, tips for using the book in the classroom, and a reader's theater script! 

2. For older students, the Folger Education Blog has complied Teaching Shakespeare, a support for teachers and students which helps to build deep reading skills and

3. For younger students, Simply Convivial has put together a 5-Step Plan to teach Shakespeare in an age-appropriate way.

4. Learn more about William Shakespeare on Biography, the National Endowment for the Arts site, or on Linda Alchin's William Shakespeare.

5. Teachers can sign up for Shakespeare Week, March 20-26, 2017, sponsored by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

6. Want to party like the Elizabethans? Throw an historic feast with tips and recipes from Teachers First.

7. Learn practically everything about the Elizabethan Era here.

8. Learn about the Globe Theatre, make your own model from paper toys, or visit the recreation (you lucky dog!)

9. The Guardian  and Shakespeare Standard have collected lists of kids' books about Shakespeare's plays, to which I would add the Shakespeare Stealer series by Gary Blackwood and the World of Shakespeare, by Usborne Books.

10. Check out these and more Perfect Picture Books at your local library.

Reviewed by Julie

Reviewed by Leslie

More books about wordplay 

Reviewed by Erik
Reviewed by Leslie

More Elizabethan history I've reviewed

The Pirate Meets the Queen, by Matt Faulkner
London Bridge is Falling Down, by Peter Spier

More inventive biographies
Reviewed by Jarm
Reviewed by Vivian

Have you reviewed a Perfect Picture Book along this theme? Please leave the link in the comments below. Thanks!

Check out all the recommended titles for Perfect Picture Book Friday
for Friday, February 10, 2017 available on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.


  1. I wonder if this couldn't be good for middle school too?

    1. I remember clearly my 7th grade project about William Shakespeare. I agree picture books like this should be used for all grades. Thanks for the insight.

  2. I had a 6th grade Shakespeare unit, but I'm not sure where it is in the curriculum now. Thanks for the great list of activities to go along with the book!

    1. Thanks. Who knew there was a Shakespeare week? What fun!

  3. I love Shakespeare, so I am excited to find this book.

    1. I thought the book was a treat from cover to cover and hope it will get kids thinking about Shakespeare as fun before they start thinking of his work as homework. Thanks for reading!

  4. XD I love how the author set out to write something, then it turned into something completely different. Sounds like me. Also, I think it's cool how it shows how media evolves over time! I'm learning about dance history in school, and I think that this book ties in nicely to that!:P

    1. Maybe you'll have to write about that when you're through studying it! I love how the author creates a bond with her readers by revealing so much behind-the-scenes and the warmth she exudes in her writing makes the subject matter so approachable (especially for reluctant readers.) Thanks for stopping by!


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