FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Zouch Six Shilling Press, the new book publishing imprint for Zouch Magazine, is pleased to announce its first publication, Beowulf: A Verse Adaptation with Young Readers in Mind by Joshua Gray and illustrated bySean Yates. Joshua Gray’s adaptation uses a scaled down Anglo-Saxon verse form of the original text for his own poem so young readers do not lose this aspect of the epic.
What makes Joshua Gray’s “retelling of Beowulf with young readers in mind” immediate and powerful is its tender tone: it is addressed to his son, in the same understated, hushed voice of expectation as a will and testament, that it contains a coded message to be passed down from the son, who is father to the man, to his own son and so on. Moreover, being written “with young readers in mind,” and not “for young readers only,” makes it truly special, for in making Beowulf more accessible he has done the time-honored service of digest and abridgement for busy adults as well, and in doing so has helped this reader for one focus on the story’s essential message; that it’s very telling — not just its symbolic content but the form itself — represents the eternal bond between fathers and sons and so between all men.
Cigale is correct in saying the poem is addressed to his son. As the dedication implies, there is something behind the writing of the poem. When Gray’s eldest son was six or seven, Gray looked long and hard for a version of Beowulf for children, but could not find one written in verse. Says Gray, “I was horrified. Part of the beauty of the epic is its poetry. To make an adaptation of the story without consideration of its verse seemed plain wrong. I figured, if one doesn’t exist, I may as well write one myself.” Gray’s son, now fifteen, still remembers reading his father’s version, complete with crude drawings of the scenes. Gray is no artist, but he says, “I did what I could.”
Not only did Cigale edit Gray’s poem for its first publication, but he also wrote the introduction of the book. But Cigale is not the only one who understands its Anglo-Saxon tone. Benjamin Bagby, a performer of Beowulf in the original Anglo-Saxon, writes
Joshua Gray’s poetic re-telling of the Beowulf epic as a tale for children gets to the essence of the action with a use of modern English which is accessible and clear for young minds, listening while busily building their own image-worlds… I have the sense that this new text may well encourage very young listeners, years later (after their bedtime stories are a distant memory), to recall this tale with pleasure and to discover a vibrant curiosity to know more about the doings of Hrothgar, Grendel and Beowulf.
And this time Gray did not have to rely on his crude digital drawings. Instead, he approached Sean Yates, an artist Gray found through Zouch Magazine’s social site. Gray looked for illustrators for several months, but continued coming back to Sean Yates’ work. Gray approached Yates about the project a couple times, the second time officially asking Yates to do the art with no guarantee of payment, and Yates gladly agreed. He then searched for a publisher; knowing Zouch Magazine wanted to start a book publishing imprint but lacked the resources, and because Zouch had published both of them before and knew their work, Gray approached the editors and an agreement was formed.
Beowulf: A Verse Adaptation with Young Readers in Mind is now available in paperback from its distributor,lulu.com. A hardcover edition will be available by March 1, electronic editions are coming soon and Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble will begin carrying it in 6-8 weeks.