Ideas for books begin in many ways, but it’s not often that they start life as a radio play.
To Wee Or Not To Wee started with BBC radio. 23rd April 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and is a great time to celebrate his continued legacy. As part of their celebrations, BBC School Radio created ‘Shakespeare Retold’, a series of ten stories written by well-known children’s authors including Frank Cottrell Boyce, Andy Stanton and Pamela Butchart. Each story is inspired by one of Shakespeare’s plays, and is intended as a light introduction to his characters and themes.
BBC Producer Marie Crook asked Pamela to take on Macbeth. With its mixture of wild (murderous!) ambition, spooky witches and general mayhem, Macbeth was the perfect play for Pamela to tell with a comic twist.
At first Pamela was a little nervous about the task, as she hadn’t really got along with Shakespeare at school, but when she went back to the play she realised that it was dramatic, funny and exciting, and she was really keen to retell it in a way that was easy to understand and enjoy. You can listen to Pamela’s interview with the BBC here.
When Pamela’s editor Kirsty saw her Macbeth – now renamed MACDEATH – script, she knew it was going to be a hit. So quick as a flash she asked Pamela how she felt about giving Izzy, the audacious primary school heroine of Pamela’s Baby Aliens series, a whole book in which to retell Shakespeare’s greatest hits. Pamela was really keen, and so a whole new interpretation of Shakespeare involving Hamlet’s pyjamas, lasagne, and bridesmaid cats was born.
In order to publish in time for Shakespeare’s anniversary, everything had to move EXTREMELY quickly. Thomas Flintham, who illustrates all of the Izzy books, worked at illustration light-speed to create an impressive array of Shakespeare’s romantic leads, dastardly villains and gruesome ghouls ready for designer Nicola to work her magic with.
And all the work paid off because on 7th April the crowd hushed and the curtains opened on To Wee Or Not To Wee! You can take a look inside the book, and read Pamela’s re-telling of Macbeth, below:
And you can listen to Macdeath, and the other nine Shakespeare retellings, here.
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