Since I introduced “El Deafo” into my classroom, the popularity of graphic novels has exploded. When I read the 2015-2016 list for Maine Student Book Award choices, I was very excited to see how many graphic novels had made the cut! “El Deafo” is on the list, obviously, but there are lots of other great graphics worth your time and attention. One that I hadn’t heard of before was “The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth”.
This hilarious reenactment of Shakespeare’s classic play “Macbeth” is presented in five acts with zoo animals as the stars. As soon as the lights go out in the zoo, and the keepers leave for the night, the stage lights shine and the actors take their places. Though they do an outstanding job, my favorite part of the story was actually the reactions of the audience members. There are two little monkey siblings who can’t seem to agree on which is worse: the fighting scenes or the kissing scenes.
Our hero, Macbeth, is heroic in every way. He dresses heroically, eats heroically, and, of course, even kisses his wife heroically. Macbeth, played by a handsome lion, is known for being the strongest and most skilled warrior in all the land. One day, Macbeth follows his nose through the woods to locate the source of a delicious smell. He comes upon three poorly disguised witches, one of which is still trying to perfect her evil laugh. The witches encourage Macbeth to eat the king, which will result in him gaining the throne. While Macbeth loves a tasty meal of pizza, tacos, and hot dogs, he really isn’t sure if he’s ready to eat the king.
At home, Macbeth talks to Mrs. Macbeth about his strange encounter in the woods. When she puts two and two together, she realizes that with Macbeth as king, she would be queen. So she starts in with some very persuasive tactics. Finally, he can take his wife’s pestering no longer and decides to go ahead with the eating of the poor, innocent king.
Once Macbeth devours the king (with the help of several bottles of ketchup from the prop department), he enjoys a very short reign of peace. It turns out that the circumstances of the king’s death are rather suspicious, and Detective Macduff starts poking his beak around, looking for the carnivore responsible for the king’s death.
Macbeth starts to sweat. Too many critters start nosing around, and the already full lion has to eat everyone who even starts to suspect his involvement with the crime. (This is accomplished party with the help of a truckload of ketchup.) A small group of animals who have managed to stay away from the lion’s jaws gathers together to march on the castle. Organized and lead by Detective Macduff, the group approaches Macbeth for what they expect to be an epic battle. Much to the little monkey’s dismay, Macbeth’s ever expanding gut prevents him from putting up much of a fight.
There is a happy ending (for most of the zoo creatures) and the troupe takes their final bow on stage before retiring to their cages for the evening. The appreciative audience is left with a teaser for the next episode: “Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Romeo and Juliet”.
I’m positive none of my fourth graders have read or seen the play, but like Macbeth, they’re eating this book up. The humor and animal characters make this graphic novel accessible and enjoyable for a wide audience. I cannot wait for September, which is when the next issue of The Stratford Zoo is scheduled to be released. Hopefully those cute little monkeys make another appearance!
Title: “Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth”
Publisher: First Second
Publish Date: September 30, 2014
You might also enjoy: Amulet
My recommended age range: 4th and up