#1306 – FLIBBERTIGIBBETY WORDS: Young Shakespeare Chases Inspiration by Donna Guthrie & Åsa Gilland


Young Shakespeare Chases Inspiration
Written by author Donna Guthrie
Illustrated by Åsa Gilland
Page Street Kids;  Sept. 2020
32 Pages   Age 4—8

Genre:  Children’s Picture Book, Fiction
Themes: William Shakespeare’s Words



Can a young William Shakespeare capture the right words when inspiration strikes?

One morning, William opens his window and words fly in. But when he tries to catch them, they slip right through his fingers! Leading him on a wild goose chase, the words skip over the balcony of a lady in courtship, flip past an old king with his rose-cheeked daughters, and dip into a boiling pot stirred by three old women where the words bubble, bubble—they are too much trouble! Will he find a way to capture such flibbertigibbety words before they disappear for good?

Even the most celebrated playwright of all time struggled to tame words! Full of famous verse, familiar characters, and vocabulary invented by the great bard himself, this adventure through Shakespeare’s best doubles as a delightfully madcap ode to writing, language, and creative inspiration. (from jacket flap)

Opening Sentences

“One morning, William opened his window and words flew in. The words dangled over William’s head looking luscious and sweet. I’d like to catch those words, he thought.”

Why I like Flibbertigibbety Words:  Young Shakespeare Chases Inspiration

Young William Shakespeare awakes, opens his bedroom window, and words fly in, dangling over his head, just out of reach. He tries to scoop them up, but the words are quite adept at acrobatically avoiding William’s little fingers. Then out the window they go. William runs downstairs and out the door. The street is clogged with people, carriages, and carts. The words, and William, vault over a wall, but to his dismay, the words are hiding in a garden. The gardener plans to turn these words into poems of love for his employer.

Throughout the story, William chases the words and phrases but cannot catch the elusive group of letters. The words hop onto a king’s carriage (his three daughters laugh) then evade all when they dive into the river. Two fashionable twins suggest William try calling the words to him. Will the words come to William?

Ha, ha!

The words swim the river, go past a farmhouse, into a graveyard, and then the woods of Avon. A robin’s song finds room for the words right before they hop into a boiling stew being stirred by three old wit . . . women (sorry). Will young William ever capture those words and put them into his plays and poems? Or will one of the others take the words for their own needs?

Donna Guthrie made Flibbertigibbety Words a madcap adventure, that surely exhausted William, but children will love the crazy travel and the words’ evasiveness. Phrases such as, “Fair is foul and foul is fair:  Hover through the fog,” and “To be or not to be, that is the question,” will trigger adults’ memories on the spot. Each spread has these Shakespearian quotes, which scatter about the page, zig-zagging, curving, and dipping away from William. Children will need to look closely and possibly use a finger to trace each phrase. What better way to capture your child’s attention?

The phrases’ journey is told by William at each new stop. When the words jump into the river, a sailor is willing to use them in his songs, but William explains,

“They came through my window, vaulted over a wall, took a turn on the old king’s carriage, and now a storm might blow them out to sea.”

At each new stop, those present want to use the words for their own poems, songs, or letters. They then hear William repeat his woes, adding the new stop at the end. This repetition is wonderful for young children. It helps them learn to read and once learned (or memorized), children can enjoy the story more by being a part of the reading.

The illustrations are gorgeous, giving children a sense of old-time England. Åsa Gilland uses humor in her art, in both the people William encounters and in the space his words try to hide in. The sailor is surrounded by fish who look quite happy bobbing up and down the water. (Actually, with his pink cheeks and nose, the sailor reminds me of Scarecrow from The Wizard of OZ!) William goes through many emotions as he tries to bring the words back home—for his usage.

Guthrie and Gilland make a great pair. I hope we see more from these two exacting creatives. Flibbertigibbety Words is educational, in a fun way that will keep children attentive from start to finish. It is also beautifully captured and the well-thought out text will please educators. Though a picture book, Flibbertigibbety Words will find an audience with readers of all ages.

Flibbertigibbety Words is Donna Guthrie’s twenty-fifth book for kids. I know because she sent along a 6-page resume (a first), highlighting her prolific work for children, including over eighty videos created to ease a child’s nerves before undergoing a hospital procedure. Aspiring writers wonder if publishing books is a whirlwind or a steady career, Guthrie’s releases, on average, two books a year, proving writing and publishing children’s books  is a steady, consistently plied career.

Back Matter

There are three sections in the backmatter:  Author’s Note, William’s Real Words, and a Bibliography.

The Author’s Note: Explains story inspired by what William Shakespeare might have been like as a child; though little is known about him. The real William Shakespeare, was a playwright and poet who lived centuries ago. He liked humor, wit, and creating new words. Experts credit Shakespeare with creating 1,000 of today’s words and phrases we use daily—they suspect William invented the word or phrase or heard it and put the words to paper. The author challenges readers to find all the words and phrases running around the pages.

William’s Real Words:  Is a list of fifteen well-known phrases, from his plays, that most would find familiar today. The author referenced each phrase to the play it is from and where you can find it (Act, Scene, and line).

Bibliography:  Contains seven listings from books, online websites (authority sites), and the Folger Shakespeare Library. All contain the information you will need, should you desire to look for the author’s references; as all good bibliographies should.

Illustrations created digitally with hand-drawn textures.

To Learn More About Author Donna Guthrie:  http://www.donnawguthrie.com/

To Learn More About Artist Åsa Gilland:  https://www.asagilland.com/


Available at Amazon:  FLIBBERTIGIBBETY WORDS: Young Shakespeare Chases Inspiration

FLIBBERTIGIBBETY WORDS: Young Shakespeare Chases Inspiration. Text Copyright © 2020 by Donna Guthrie. Illustrations copyright © 2020 by Åsa Gilland. Published by Page Street Kids/Page Street Publishing, Salem, MA.


Copyright © 2020 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved
[660—word count-review only]

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4 thoughts on “#1306 – FLIBBERTIGIBBETY WORDS: Young Shakespeare Chases Inspiration by Donna Guthrie & Åsa Gilland

  1. Sue, your reviews are so thorough and clear, it’s impossible not to be compelled. And I’ll tell you, this incredibly original idae sounds fantastic! Yes, it’s written for children, but honestly…I think writers will want this for their own lol…I think we’re all very familiar with elusive words and ideas 😉


      • I desperately want to enjoy READing Shakespeare, but still struggle when I try 😦 I have the full works, but don’t have the time! sigh LOVE it when it’s acted out well though 😀
        P.S. did you ever receive my emails?


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