The Reduced Shakespeare Company has reduced the complete works of William Shakespeare once again (and even further) by compiling a beautiful pop-up book with Walker Books, illustrated by the incomparable Jennie Maizels. It’s difficult to come by books so very entertaining today. Walker Books, along with Maizels, Tichenor, and Martin, created a piece that is funny, tactile, broad in scope, and harnesses a creative excitement at every page flip. Setting aside my feelings about the book’s content for a moment, the execution of such a gorgeous book for adults (but truly, made for all ages) in the year 2019 feels so rare and rewarding. It’s truly a brilliant, beautiful book for a time that desperately needs books with such a sense of wonder.
The book is comprised of five pages of flaps, each flap covering one genre of the Bard’s life and work: his biography, the comedies, the tragedies, the histories, and the romances. Peppered throughout are some of the more minor errata including the apocrypha, the poems, and some miniature fun facts about his relationship with historical contexts of, say, the occult and his relationships.
Maizel’s artwork and choices regarding the construction of the book are absolutely whimsical. I turned every page with a ‘wow’ as the stage pops up from the middle and presents the stories with surprises at every angle, and of course, as a forty-year-old man it doesn’t happen as often as I’d like. There isn’t an inch or corner of the page wasted, and the layout feels like a combination between a classic theatrical cyclorama and a haphazard yet organized antique shop with costumes and books, masks, cameos, and knickknacks.
In the hands of Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor, the writing is just as hilarious as you would expect. While I have seen their stage show, read all of Shakespeare’s poems and plays, and even performed in quite a few of them (find my complete performances with Actors Circle Theater on YouTube!) there is something to be said for the fact that this was still a fresh and hilarious dive into one of my favorite topics in the world. The flaps, the doors, the discovery, and the jokes all combine to create a great experience for every level of reader (and who doesn’t love a good Coriolanus joke? And then another… Coriolanus).
In short, pick this up. This book is great for every single reader regardless of their interest in Shakespeare. All the better if they are my age and have a dorky affinity for everyone involved with this book. It is great for a coffee table, a kids bookshelf, your local library, or as a gift for your favorite literature or theater buff in your life. A truly great book that reminds me that there are not nearly enough books like this in the twenty-first century.
You can even make a night of it and play the PopUp Shakespeare Drinking Game. A sip for every ‘Bard,’ ‘Shakespeare,’ a drink for every murder, and three drinks for every mention of ‘anus.’ (http://www.instagram.com/p/BtR-pCanR6v)