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An Introduction to Shakespeare for Kids

April 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s work is among the most widely read and studied. But does his work resonate with kids? The language can be difficult to understand and some passages are dense. Most children probably don’t ask for a Shakespeare soliloquy for their bed-time story.

Fortunately, there are a number of books written specifically for children to introduce them to the world of Shakespeare. From beautifully illustrated versions to abridged stories using simplified language, the following Shakespeare books will help children form a lifelong love for the Bard.


Illustrated Stories from Shakespeare
This is a wonderful collection of retellings of six of William Shakespeare’s best-loved plays – a perfect mix of comedy, tragedy, magic and romance – retold for younger readers.  Contains A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest and Twelfth Night.


Tales from Shakespeare by Charles & Mary Lamb
The Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb were written to be an ‘introduction to the study of Shakespeare’, but are much more entertaining than that. All of Shakespeare’s best-loved tales, comic and tragic, are retold in a clear and robust style, and their literary quality has made them popular and sought-after ever since their first publication in 1807. This edition contains the delightful pen-and-ink drawings of Arthur Rackham.


How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig
To know some Shakespeare provides a head start in life. His plays are among the great bedrocks of Western civilization and contain the finest writing of the past 450 years. Many of the best novels, plays, poems, and films in the English language produced since Shakespeare’s death in 1616—from  Pride and Prejudice to  The Godfather—are heavily influenced by Shakespeare’s stories, characters, language, and themes. In  How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare, acclaimed playwright Ken Ludwig provides the tools you need to inspire an understanding, and a love, of Shakespeare’s works in your children, and to have fun together along the way.


Leon Garfield’s Shakespeare Stories
How to introduce kids to Shakespeare—not just to the stories behind the plays but to the richness of his language and the depth of his characters. That’s the challenge that Leon Garfield, a wonderful children’s book writer, undertook to meet in his monumental and delightful Shakespeare Stories. Here are twenty-one of the Bard’s plays, presented in what is not a series of dry retellings, but rather a refashioning of the dramas as stories, in a way that remains true to the essential spirit of the original versions. Garfield has captured all the richness of character, plot, mood, and setting in Shakespeare’s works without resorting to simplification.


Bard of Avon: The Story of William Shakespeare by Diane Stanley & Peter Vennema
William Shakespeare was the son of a glove maker, a small-town boy with a grammar school education. Yet he grew up to become the greatest English-speaking playwright in the world. Bard of Avon: The Story of William Shakespeare is both his story and that of a great art rediscovered in the modern world.


Shakespeare’s Stories for Young Readers by E. Nesbit
Twelve of Shakespeare’s greatest tales come to life in this entertaining collection of short, lively stories specially adapted for young readers. Capturing the vital events and using some of the original wording, the stories serve as a perfect introduction to Shakespeare for preteens and as literate refreshers for older folks.


The Shakespeare Book (Big Ideas Simply Explained)
Learn more about the work of William Shakespeare with The Shakespeare Book, packed full of infographics, inspirational quotes, character guides, and more bonus material that illuminates the bard’s work, from Shakespeare plays like Twelfth Night, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, and As You Like It, to his best-loved sonnets, and even obscure lost works. Every comedy, tragedy, history, and poem of Shakespeare’s is collected here in this comprehensive guide.


Mothello: A High-Flying Introduction to Shakespeare for Kids by Dilan MacHardy
The first in a series of Shakespeare adaptations casting the Bard’s epic characters as animals (ROMEOW & JULICAT, KING DEER, LAMBLET…and more to follow), Mothello translates the complexities of Shakespeare, beginning in simple English and gradually introducing the full weight of the text. By using the literary convention of the backstory, the added narrative seeks to explain why Mothello behaved the way he did, why he became capable of murder, betraying his beloved Desdemona and eventually, himself. The hope is that young readers will relate more to animal characters and familiar animal behavior to make them want to persevere and be challenged by one of the greatest literary figures of all time.


Hamlet (Shakespeare Stories) by Andrew Matthews
Murder most foul…An action-packed retelling of Shakespeare’s dark tale of revenge and murder. With notes on Shakespeare and the Globe Theatre, and Revenge in Hamlet.


Shakespeare on Toast by Ben Crystal
Actor and author Ben Crystal brings the bright words and colorful characters of the world’s greatest hack writer brilliantly to life, handing over the key to William Shakespeare’s plays, unlocking the so-called difficult bits and, astonishingly, finding Shakespeare’s own voice in among the poetry. Told in five fascinating acts, Shakespeare on Toast sweeps the cobwebs from the Bard – from his language, his life, his time – revealing both the man and his work to be relevant, accessible, and full of beans.

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