Agatha Christie is one of the world’s bestselling novelists thanks to her 66 detective novels. According to her website, she has only been outsold by Shakespeare and the bible. Having never read an Agatha Christie novel before, I decided to read And Then There Were None, which is considered to be one of her best books. This is not just hearsay: And Then There Were None is listed on the Wikipedia List of Best Selling Books; it has an estimated $100 million in sales since it was published in 1939, and it remains in print today, with a new hardcover copy having been published in the fall.
And Then There Were None is the story of ten strangers with vastly different backgrounds who are all invited to stay at an island. After arriving, the guests are informed that their host and hostess are delayed; it’s around that point that they realize they were all invited under differing and rather mysterious circumstances. Then the guests start dying one by one. The first death can be explained as a suicide. But by the third death, there can be only one explanation: murder. After a thorough search of the island, the guests realize that they are the only ones present, which means one of their party is the murderer! How will the innocent guests figure out who the culprit is before they’re all dead?
While And Then There Were None is a little bit dated in its writing style, I can easily see why it remains the world’s best selling mystery novel. It is a bit light on the characterization, but I found that doesn’t really matter because And Then There Were None is all about the plot. It is an excellent mystery that will keep you guessing right to the end!
Elephant and Piggie. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. Knuffle Bunny. These perennial story-time favourites were all created by one author, the endlessly original Mo Willems. In addition to his series titles, Willems also writes popular standalone books. Most child readers (and those who read to children) will be familiar with Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs and Tyrone the Terrible. This year, he has brought one series to a close and opened a new chapter.
After twenty-five stories, two gold medals from the Theodor S Geisel committee and five Geisel Honors, Willems has ended the adventures of Elephant and Piggie with The Thank You Book. These boisterous friends have had many adventures; including There is a Bird on Your Head! and We are in a Book! Told through humorous dialogue and simple, sparse illustrations, these books are a great pick for early readers and new installments will be missed.
However, rather than saying a final farewell to these popular characters, Willems is using them as a vehicle to bring attention to other exciting and worthwhile children’s authors in a new series called Elephant and Piggie Like Reading! In these books, Elephant and Piggie act as a framing device, introducing the story to readers and commenting on it in the final pages while another author writes and illustrates the central story itself.
I fully recommend checking out both of these new books. The Cookie Fiasco by Dan Santat uses a goofy cast of characters to introduce sharing and fractions to readers in a scenario all kids will recognize: four friends, but only three cookies. We Are Growing! by Laurie Keller explores individuality and self confidence amongst a group of silly grasses. Both books contain the humour and endearing characters found in Mo Willems’ own work and should satisfy any disappointed Elephant and Piggie super-fans.
In honour of Her Majesty’s 90th birthday, the Prince of Wales chose a selection from Shakespeare to commemorate the occasion. The passage was taken from Henry VIII and presented this morning on the BBC.
The reading from act 5, scene 5 (edited) begins: “Let me speak, sir.
For heaven now bids me; and the words I utter
Let none think flattery, for they’ll find ’em truth”.
“She shall be, to the happiness of England,
An aged princess; many days shall see her,
And yet no day without a deed to crown it”
The extract is from a speech by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer to King Henry VIII after the birth of the future Queen Elizabeth I. In consultation with Greg Doran, the artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Prince Charles chose and read the selection for both the birthday celebrations and the 400th anniversary of death of William Shakespeare.
The imagery of Shakespeare’s work has inspired other artists, especially painters since the plays were performed. The artists of the Victorian period, especially the group know as the “Pre-Raphaelites” were particularly taken with ideas of beauty and youth that mark the lovers in the plays. The elements of illusion, magic and the supernatural, as well as the evocation of the glories of the natural world added extra appeal. While there are many to choice from, these illustrate some of the scope of the classic Shakespearean paintings. The passion of young love is caught in Romeo and Juliet by Frank Bernard Dicksee and the terrors of the storm and the loneliness of Miranda are depicted in The Tempest by John William Waterhouse.
Since the birth of film, there has been Shakespeare. While translating his plays into film may have been the high water mark of many careers such as Lord Laurence Olivier and Sir Kenneth Branagh, other actors and directors have felt the urge to interpret The Bard. Most recently, Michael Fassbender, along with Marion Cotillard starred in the 2015 version of Macbeth and Joss Whedon, the writer and director of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Avengers, used his vacation time between films to shoot a simple updated version of “Much Ado About Nothing”.
Other films though have taken the gist of a Shakespearen play and completely transformed it to a new setting, in frequently strange and wonderful ways. Disney’s “The Lion King” owes much of its substance to Hamlet, and the teen comedy “Ten Things I Hate About You” is really The Taming of the Shrew. The Japanese shogun movie “Ran” that would inspire Star Wars, was itself inspired by King Lear, and the science fiction classic “Forbidden Planet”, which would be the catalyst much of the science fiction television and novels of the 1960’s and 1970’s, was really “The Tempest.”
Any film site on the internet lists great and not so great attempts at adapting Shakespeare and there are always more coming. Sean Bean is set to star as the title character in Caesar, (which does prove he dies in everything); and Rosaline which is based on Rebecca Serle YA novel called When You Were Mine, used Romeo and Juliet as it’s heart. IMDB or the International Movie Data Base lists 1140 versions of Shakespeare’s work on film or television, with another 19 new works on the horizon as of March this year.
Of course, Romeo and Juliet as garden gnomes is a bit much, even for my taste.