Review: To Wee or Not to Wee by Pamela Butchart, illustrated by Thomas Flintham

To Wee or Not to Wee
They always say that Shakespeare, despite being from four centuries ago, is still relevant, and To Wee or Not to Wee by Pamela Butchart is the book that proves it – in hilarious style.

Sitting in the same series as My Headteacher is a Vampire Rat and Attack of the Demon Dinner Ladies, To Wee or Not to Wee features Izzy and pals, with Izzy retelling four stories from Shakespeare in her own inimitable style.

Izzy’s retellings strip the plays right down to their essence – the characters. When Zach gets ridiculously indecisive, Izzy compares him to Hamlet, the biggest ditherer in history. He can’t even decide whether he needs a wee…

When Gary Petrie in Izzy’s class doesn’t want to hear about Macbeth because he wants a story that’s not boring, and also scary, Izzy’s retelling, with ghosts and witches and heads getting chopped off, proves Gary wrong.

When Jodi acts all weird and seems to be acting all lovey-dovey and dancing with Gary Petrie (who has BOGEY FINGERS from picking his nose) Izzy reckons it must be something like Oberon’s magic potions from A Midsummer Night’s Dream that cause havoc by making everyone fall in  love with everyone else.

And finally, when Izzy’s mum falls out with Zach’s mum, and the two families are embroiled in a feud to rival the Montagues and Capulets, it’s Izzy’s retelling of Romeo and Juliet that warns everyone about the dangers of an inter-family feud: TRAGEDY and POISON and DEATH!

As always, Thomas Flintham provides the illustrations for Izzy and friends, with the cover, showing the shadow of William Shakespeare cast by Izzy holding Yorick’s skull, fitting the book perfectly. Grumpy-faced donkey-head Bottom on page 111 is brilliant, too.

I had a silly grin on my face for most of this book – the jokes and crazy situations come thick and fast. The stories are simplified, but not dumbed down – although some of the themes are made age appropriate, like “to be or not to be,” Hamlet’s soliloquy on whether he should live or just die, converted into “to wee or not to wee,” Hamlet’s dithering about whether he needs the toilet. There’s plenty of blood and gore, of course – try retelling Macbeth without it! – and enough of the original stories remain to provide a decent overview of the plots of the actual plays.

As an introduction to Shakespeare for kids who aren’t quite ready for the plays themselves, this can’t be beaten. But if you don’t care about Shakespeare, this is still a hilarious collection of silly stories starring Izzy, Zach, Jodi and Maisie.


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