macbethThe timeless, classic tragedy of Macbeth is reimagined by a whole zoo full of animals in this funny, bloody (don’t worry, it’s just ketchup!), and hilarious take on the Scottish play.

The zoo is closed and the animals are gathering for a very special performance: a grand production of Macbeth. Macbeth, the regal lion, beloved of the people, hero of the realm (he even eats his breakfast heroically—”Take that, bacon!”) is led astray by his own craving for something different. At the encouragement of the clever and wicked Lady Macbeth, he eats the king. Once he’s on the downward spiral of eating his enemies, he can’t seem to stop and more and more animals disappear into his stomach. But when he winds up tortured by a raging stomachache, and Queen Macbeth descends into madness, the prophecies of the witches come true and there is a final, explosive conclusion to Macbeth’s tragic story. The next day at the zoo, things are back to normal…but there’s a hint at more Shakespearean fun to come.

As the animals’ take on the classic story progresses, there are hilarious jokes and asides, from the animal audience as well as the actors. Macduff, a leggy stork, shows up in classic noir detective trench coat and fedora. Lady Macduff obsesses over the spots she can’t get out…unsurprisingly, since she’s a cheetah. Macbeth tries a soliloquy, but is booed down by the audience who wants “more witches,” while the witches themselves try in exasperation to perfect the evil cackle of their colleague. Monkey kids express their own take on the play’s lesson (“We should never wash our clothes again!”), and the audience chows down on carrion, complains about skunks in the next seat, and wishes they hadn’t sat quite so close to the stage for the bloodier moments as they enjoy the show.

Giallongo’s art is both cinematic and cartoonish, with exciting action and splurting ketchup (no animals were harmed in the making of this play), larger-than-life characters, and plenty of visual jokes for both Shakespeare fans and those new to the plays. He skillfully turns the more bloody aspects of the play into comedy, as in the actual devouring of the king. Macbeth sees a sign—a large flashing neon one over the king’s throne with “good eats” prominently displayed. “Is this silverware I see before me?” and then, “What followed was horrible and gruesome and definitely the best scene in the whole play…” turn the page and a giant elephant obscures the stage with splashes of red (more ketchup of course), much to the disappointment of the small monkeys and relief of their horrified mother.

Parents and teachers looking for a funny and irreverent introduction to Shakespeare that’s just on the edge of appropriate for middle grade readers will be happy with this hilarious, ketchup-splattered take. Kids who like slapstick humor, snarky asides, and strong, classic cartoon art will also be instant fans. Adults looking for a literary analysis or those lacking a sense of humor about the bard need not apply.

The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue presents Macbeth
by Ian Lendler
Art by Zack Giallongo
ISBN: 9781596439153
First Second, 2014
Publisher Age Rating: Grades 2-5

  • Jennifer

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, Matheson Memorial Library

    Reviewer

    Jennifer Wharton is the Youth Services Librarian at Matheson Memorial Library in Elkhorn, Wisconsin where she maintains the juvenile and young adult graphic novel collections and was responsible for creating the library’s adult graphic novel collection. She is constantly looking for great new comics for kids and teens and new ways to incorporate graphic storytelling in programming. Jennifer blogs for preschool through middle grade at JeanLittleLibrary and has an MLS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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