Think about it...What do the animals do in the zoo at night? Unless you are a zookeeper, or your scout troop is having a sleepover in the zoo, or it is Halloween "Boo at the Zoo" time, no humans are around and the animals have the place to themselves. What do you do when you have the house to yourself? You relax and have fun. That's just what the animals do, too.
They enjoy theater and this evening the Midnight Revue has a performance of Macbeth, er... I mean that Scottish play. Lion is the star and has wonderful acting skills (he yells). His sidekick is, understandably, a hyena and Macduff is a stork. In this version of the play, Macbeth actually eats all the people he needs to get rid of, with lots of ketchup. Lady Macbeth is a leopard (cheetah? jaguar?) anyway, she has lots of spots. The audience is made up of the rest of the zoo animals and the vendors are hawking everything from earthworms and ice cold bananas to ripe carrion. Predictably no one wants to sit next to the skunk. And during the tense scene where the king is eaten, an elephant comes in late and is trying to find his seat, so he blocks everyone's view of the stage.
There is so much humor in the performance of this "tragedy." Besides the vendors, the ketchup, and the skunk, there are the three witches whose predictions cause all the trouble. They are played by very small mammals wearing capes and fake pointy noses to make them look more witchy. One of them has not mastered the art of the evil laugh and keeps getting corrected by the others. "Ho! Ho! Ho!" "No, that's a Santa Claus laugh." "Hee! Hee! Hee!" "No! That's a little-girl-being-tickled laugh!" "Mwa-ha-ha!" "No, that's an evil scientist laugh. Keep trying." You can't help laughing yourself as each attempt is made and shot down. There are also shades of "The Princess Bride" when the small monkey asks his mother, "Oh yuck. Is this a kissing story?" The, er, uhm, Scottish play has never been this much fun.
Written for younger readers, there is no off-color language, no one is actually shown being chewed up, the only stains are from ketchup, and at the end (in a classic Red Riding Hood twist), Macduff finds that Macbeth actually swallowed everyone whole. This is the start of a series and I can't wait to see what they do next with Romeo and Juliet.
Although it is written for the lower grades, I think middle and high school classes could easily use it to compare and contrast with the original version of the play and even use it as a writing prompt to create their own kid-friendly versions of other plays.
I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It will be released in stores on September 30, 2014.