Friday, 15 January 2021

Bringing Their Tales Behind Them

Yesterday  Sue in Suffolk asked "How many Bibles does one person need?" and posted some pictures, including one of her Sunday School prize Bible from 1968. I went scurrying off to find one of my Sunday School prizes, from 1965. I remember particularly how I received this prize-we'd moved from County Durham to Norfolk just before the SS prizegiving. I said to Mum "Will I still get my prize?" and she assured me they would post it. Then I muttered that it might be yet another Bible, and Dad said, no - I was getting Lamb's Tales. I completely misunderstood - thought it was Bo-Peep and a book of Nursery Rhymes!

When the parcel arrived [what excitement - this was before we became blas√© about regular Amazon drop-offs] I was intrigued by this small blue book with gold blocked lettering. 

I learned of Charles Lamb, and his sister, Mary who lived in London and wanted to rewrite Shakespeare's work in a way which interest younger readers. And this was in 1807 - 200 years after the Bard penned his words- and almost 160 years before I was born.
I loved my little book of "Lamb's Tales From Shakespeare" - twenty of the comedies and tragedies written in a relatively accessible style. When we were doing our Great Book Cull, I insisted this little gem was kept - you never know, I may read it to Rosie or George one day...

And in the odd serendipitous way these things work out, now I've just discovered somebody else has just written a re-telling of Shakespeare for children. My great hero Michael Morpurgo! The book will be published next year.

During these strange lockdown days, The Royal Shakespeare Company have combined with MM to do performances of five of the stories. Until NEXT Monday, 18th January, you can watch and listen to MM himself, telling Twelfth Night HERE for free. They're also making the showings available free to schools over the next 5 Fridays - and on sale to the public too. [RSC site] These include signing for the deaf too.

Do check it out. I am sure MM's language will be easier for today's young people - Charles and Mary were rather fond of 'hitherto' and some of their phrases now are rather antiquated. Even in the 1960s, I remember giggling at the line "he was rudely pressing her to marry him". MM has had some flak for omitting The Merchant of Venice from his list. He says he just chose his favourite 10 tales- and MofV was not among them. His defence is here, and I for one fully accept his reasoning.

I am a passionate advocate of story-telling. It is a great way to communicate and to educate, both children and adults. Bob and I both love our bedtime internet sessions with Rosie - as does she. And I think it is good to explain 'classic' stories in a simple way when they are younger - it lays a good foundation for their reading choices later. One of our girls was aged about 6 when she went to the hatch at lunchtime to ask politely if there was any more pudding. "More?! Who do you think you are, Oliver Twist?" said the teacher on duty. I am afraid that my child turned round and smiling sweetly retorted "Children my age are too young to read Charles Dickens, Miss!" [the teacher concerned told me afterwards they struggled not to chuckle, and the story went round the staffroom]

I am not aware of any Sunday Schools doing Scripture Exams or Bible Searching Competitions nowadays. But of course we still tell them the Bible Stories.

Do day schools still have annual prizegivings and award good books in these cash-strapped days? Or are the rewards now just photocopied 'well done' certificates and extra minutes in "Golden Time" on Friday afternoons?

Did you have a favourite book as a child?

People have me asked about Ziffit, the book buying company. I've found them extremely good, the website is easy to manage - and they will come and collect the parcel of books from you- no carrying to the post office etc. The website is HERE and if you use the code IYBRCFFMI you will get £5 extra on your first trade.


  1. I'd better read MM's Twelth Night. We did that for O level and I'm sure I didn't really get the story as I failed O level Eng. Lit.! Luckily I passed Eng. Lang. so I was able to get my job in the library

    1. We read Twelfth Night in 4th form, but did Julius Caesar at O level. I thought JC was easier. The only thing that stuck in my head from TN was "yellow stockings cross-gartered"!

  2. I've just shared this with our English coordinators at school- thanks Ang, you're doing well for my kids this week! I LOVE MM and this is great!
    I borrowed a Shakespeare retelling book from the library when I was in Year 4 and I loved it. Macbeth was my favourite at at the time. I was the first person in the library to get it out and then when we did some work on Shakespeare, everyone else was after it! I felt smug telling them about it. Nowadays, I have a special affection for a few plays for reasons that they have been ones I've been involved in in one way or another. In fact, I might write a blog post about it (and maybe even share with my kids. Not the blog but my reasons for liking them! Julius Caesar was my set Shakespeare work for the Year 9 SATS- we were the only class not to do Romeo and Juliet so we felt very smug!

    1. I did Julius Caesar at O level in 1971!

    2. And I'm glad that I've made a contribution to your school's Lockdown Lessons - always pleased to be useful

  3. Friend of mine who is a teacher assures me that children still love to be read to and it is a lovely way of calming everyone down after recess (I remember my teachers doing the same thing).
    We haven't done a book give-away with our Church school but we do give out a Children's Bible to each child being baptized - and I make sure to include a book plate with each child's name written in so it is special for them.

  4. I have one Bible (King James Version) and a book titled The Complete Works of Shakespeare. I did The Merchant of Venice for English Lit. for O-levels in Sri Lanka. My daughter received a book of Buddhist prayers printed in English from the Temple when she attended Sunday School and I have a similar version printed in Sinhalese, in my collection of books, which was also a gift from the Temple. I had several favorite books as a child, but, I gave them all away when I left. Among my favorites were the Noddy series by Enid Blyton. :)

    1. My father wrote to Enid Blyton in 1959. He said I was upset because the golliwog in Noddy was a bad person, and I didn't like the idea that black = bad. She wrote him a long letter (by hand) justifying herself. Sadly the letter got thrown away by mistake by one of his friends- I'm sure it would have been worth a lot of money now!


Always glad to hear from you - thanks for stopping by!
I am blocking anonymous comments now, due to excessive spam!