This summer we spent a couple of weeks reading and exploring some of Shakespeare’s famous tales. If you visit your local library you’ll find tons of Shakespeare books in the junior section. I thought I’d highlight some of the ones that we really liked.
Bruce Coville (author of the Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher) has retold a number of Shakespeare’s famous works. He incorporates famous lines into his own prose. This makes these stories more accessible to younger audiences. My kids (the girls especially) liked the illustrations and the pictures helped keep even my youngest engaged in the story.
We also read a couple of stories from Usborne’s Stories from Shakespeare. For example, we read “The Tempest.” The story was well written and story line was easy to follow. It has ten different stories including the famous ones like Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merchant of Venice and more. There were a few spots where there were no illustrations which made it harder for my youngest, ED, to pay attention. I liked the book enough that I’m toying with the idea of buying it from Amazon just so I can have it on hand to read to the kids at the spur of the moment (educational yet entertaining).
Tales from Shakespeare by Marcia Williams has a different approach to retelling Shakespeare’s stories. Her stories are presented almost in comic books style with 6-8 illustrations per page with some dialogue/prose to go along with each picture. Cartoon panels have direct quotations from the play and the author’s narration helps carry along the story line under each panel. I asked DD to read “Hamlet” and asked for her opinion and whether she liked the comic book style. She said she liked it and said the pictures were funny.
On one of our trips this summer, we listened to Jim Weiss’s audiobook stories: “The Taming of the Shrew” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The kids are quite familiar with his voice as he has produced The Story of the World Audiobooks and an audiobook about King Arthur that we liked a lot. The kids enjoyed these stories a lot. It’s not one we’ll listen to over and over, so I’m glad it’s at our local library to borrow once a year or so. I also noticed he has an audiobook of “Romeo and Juliet,” but we have not listened to that.
We also borrowed two volumes of Shakespeare: The Animated Tales from our local library. These once aired on HBO. The kids thought they were fine. I wished we had read the Usborne story about “The Tempest” before we watched the animated tale. The written story went into more detail and would have helped the kids understand the storyline more. When we cover other stories, I’ll definitely read a story before we watch the short video tales.
One book that DD really loved was a spoof of Romeo and Juliet called Romeow and Drooliet. It was one of those books that she brought over and said, “You’ve got to read this.” So for that reason, I’ll mention it to you all as well! (“It was weird,” she said, “but I liked it.”) 🙂
There were some other Shakespeare stories retold by other authors, but they weren’t as appealing to our family so I won’t mention them here. But if you go to the 822 section of your library, I’m sure you’ll run across a number of Shakespeare books that might appeal to your kids! 🙂
If you have a recommendation, we’d love to hear from you over at our Homeschool Den Facebook page! Happy reading!