A Classic Connect

At eight, Marcia Williams received booklists to read from her mother every month at her boarding school. The list comprised classics ranging from William Shakespeare to Charles Dickens. After she had read each book, she was required to answer a questionnaire on the books sent by her mother. "That wasn't all, she sent back the answers with corrections,'' says Williams, now an internationally acclaimed author and illustrator, as she talks about how her relationship with books began.

Williams' CV boasts books such as The First Christmas published in 1987. Many of these have been retellings of classic stories such as Noah's Ark and Don Quixote, illustrated in her distinctive cartoon-strip style. She works in watercolours, which, she says, "are just unreliable enough to be interesting". William has retold several of Shakespeare's plays and taken to the stage herself to play the Bard in a production based on her books, Mr William Shakespeare's Plays, and Bravo, Mr Williams.

In Chandigarh for the release of her latest book The Elephant's Friend and Other Tales from Ancient India, Williams says that she carried out extensive research in Indian art, especially miniature paintings, to create vivid images that complement the stories. "I visited Jaipur, temples, palaces and met artists for this book,'' says Williams. She adds that she is constantly trying to create a balance between words and pictures to keep readers engrossed.

Retelling the classics, especially the works of Shakespeare in comic-strip style for children, had an obvious reason ó the writer wanted to get children interested in the classics and transport them into a new world through images. "It was tough, for it's important to have the foot in the original. You have to make the story your own but without losing its relevance or stretching it so much that the children lose the feel of the original. A few years later, when they read the original, you want them to have a connect with what they read as children,'' explains the author.

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