Friday’s High Flipper 5: Shakespeare for Children
This week marked the 450th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth. Well, we think. No-one actually knows the exact date that Shakespeare was born, but we traditionally celebrate his birthday on April 23rd. Which, coincidentally is also the date that he died. We do know that he was baptised on 26th April 1564, so Book Walrus thought it was as good a time as any to say a big hooray for William Shakespeare.
Book Walrus loves the plays of Shakespeare, both for the plots and the poetry, but he does find the language quite hard sometimes. And so in today’s high flipper five he wants to celebrate those books that allow even younger readers to enjoy Shakespeare.
1. Usborne’s Illustrated Stories From Shakespeare
This lovely illustrated edition covers Twelfth Night, Macbeth, The Tempest, Hamlet, Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet, with each story starting with a summary and pictures of the characters. It is a great introduction to some of Shakespeare’s most famous plays.
2. The Shakespeare Stories, by Andrew Matthews and Tony Ross
Illustrated by Tony Ross, The Shakespeare Stories box set includes 16 of Shakespeare’s plays (which can also be bought separately), across the comedies, tragedies, and even contains a couple of the histories. (The plays are: Julius Caesar, The Merchant of Venice, King Lear, Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest, Macbeth, Henry V, Othello, Richard III, Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra, Hamlet, The Taming of the Shrew, Much Ado About Nothing.) Again, the stories use accessible language to provide an excellent introduction to an even larger group of Shakespeare’s works.
3. Bravo Mr. William Shakespeare! and Mr. William Shakespeare’s Plays, by Marcia Wallace
An original and absolutely brilliant idea, Marcia Wallace’s versions of Shakespeare are in comic strip form. The characters speak lines taken directly from the plays, while a simplified version of the plot runs underneath each strip. She then reminds us that the plays were of course written to be performed, by having members of The Globe Theatre audience all around the edges of the pages commenting on what is going on. Bravo Marcia Wallace, Book Walrus loves this clever and incredibly entertaining way of presenting Shakespeare. The plays included in the two books are:
‘Bravo': As You Like It, Antony and Cleopatra, Richard III, Twelfth Night, King Lear, The Merchant of Venice and Much Ado About Nothing
‘Plays': Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, Julius Caesar, The Winter’s Tale and The Tempest.
4. Best Ever Shakespeare Tales, by Terry Deary
Terry Deary, of Horrible Histories fame, turns his hand to Shakespeare in this extremely entertaining book including summaries of the plays in easy to understand language, top ten lists, fascinating facts, quizzes. Bucketloads of information that’s so much fun you don’t even realise you’re learning.
5. Cue for Treason, by Geoffrey Trease
If you’ve read the simplified versions of the plays but perhaps still don’t feel ready to tackle the plays themselves, you could always read the classic story ‘Cue for Treason’, set in Shakespeare’s time (and featuring a cameo from the man himself).
Fleeing from the evil Sir Philip Morton, Peter Brownrigg finds himself on the wrong side of the law. On the run to London he meets Kit and the two decide to stick together. But a chance discovery endangers their lives and soon Peter is deep in murderous plots, secrets and even treason.
So if you’ve been wondering whether to read or not to read when it comes to Shakespeare, follow Book Walrus’s top recommendations and you’ll soon feel that parting from him is such sweet sorrow that you won’t be able to resist picking up that book again on the morrow.