Children's Books to Celebrate Shakespeare


I really enjoyed this read which would suit 7-10 year olds (although I read it aloud to my 4 year old and he seemed to enjoy most of it - it certainly led to lots of questions and conversations about Shakespeare and theatres!) It's a well produced book of only 121 pages with clear text and plenty of illustrations similar to titles such as "Mr Gum" so it should appeal to reluctant readers and also those who think they don't really fancy a book about Shakespeare! It is a very pleasing easy read about Toby Cuffe, an orphan who seeks a better life, dreaming of one day having his own house and family. In order to get this he knows he needs to earn some money so he joins the team of Moll Cut-Purse, Queen of the Pickpockets and Thieves, and learns how to become a a dipper, nipper and cut-purse! The play houses offer the pickpockets a (excuse the pun) wealth of opportunity as the crowds stand huddled together in front of the stage and are so entranced by the magic of the theatre become oblivious to the robbing around them. Unfortunately for Toby, he also becomes so entranced by the play - something he has never seen or experienced before - he ends up getting caught and then being left alone with Shakespeare himself. Shakespeare is desperately under pressure; unable to think of a story for his next script and deeply aware of the financial need for another hit. Toby then discloses that The Globe will be affected by the reopening of The Rose theatre nearby. And so begins Toby's next job - a spy, an aide to Shakespeare, and an answer to the theatre's financial worries! Using his new contacts in the underworld, Toby instigates an adventurous and entertaining rescue of both the theatre and Shakespeare's muse. The ending and the way that Toby, Shakespeare and the events of the story fuse together and through a collaboration become the inspiration for Shakespeare's next play was very clever. It will definitely inspire young readers to turn their hand at play writing themselves and think about how stories come to exist.
This is a short book but full of lots of great ideas and themes. It is not educative but does promote reading, the theatre and Shakespeare through a fun and lively tale. Toby is such a likeable character and Shakespeare is equally authentic yet fallible.
"Act 2" is a selection of "Funne Activities for Boyes and Girls" including pictures with a list of things to spot, an activity on costumes and links for websites. I liked the page about insults - I remember my English Teacher managing to successfully engage a table of slightly rowdy boys by showing them how to '"swear like Shakespeare!"
I would recommend this book!

Mr. William Shakespeare's Plays
Personally I can't get enough of Marcia Williams and I have her books on "Greek Myths", "Canterbury Tales" and several others. Although perfect for ages 5 upwards, I used to use these Shakespeare books (there are about three I think) as my starting point with GCSE and A Level students as well as KS3 as they give such a good summary of the main points of often complex plots, so they are a valuable and worthwhile investment for any child. These editions are beautifully illustrated, bursting with humour and use real quotes from the original text as well as modern day language. My children read them now and find them very accessible in a way that other retellings of Shakespeare probably wouldn't be for their age range. Williams also wrote more lengthy versions for readers of 8 upwards which can often be bought via websites like for a very reasonable price. We also have them and my 9 year old has really enjoyed reading them, and my 7 year old is beginning to explore them although we are mainly reading them together while her vocabulary continues to develop.

Antony and Cleopatra (Tales from Shakespeare #1)

Chasing the Stars\
Malorie Blackman is a hugely talented young adult writer with an enormous back catalogue of brilliant titles. This book is due out in April and is inspired by Othello. Here is the synopsis.

What happens when love brings loss? When love brings lies? When love brings hate? Olivia and her twin brother Aidan are heading alone back to Earth following the virus that wiped out the rest of their crew, and their family, in its entirety. Nathan is part of a community heading in the opposite direction. 
But on their journey, Nathan’s ship is attacked and most of the community killed.Only a few survive. Their lives unexpectedly collided, Nathan and Olivia are instantly attracted to each other, deeply, head-over-heels – like nothing they have ever experienced. But not everyone is pleased. Surrounded by rumours, deception, even murder, is it possible to live out a happy ever after . . . ?

Shakespeare collection gift set
These are a gorgeous collection of the plays recommended for readers age 6 and upwards. Usbourne is a very trusted children's publisher and these will be a great introduction to the tales. Several different selections and versions are available so check their website for more information.

Again from Usbourne and published especially for the anniversary, here are some sticker books which should appeal to any young reader. "The World of Shakespeare" is aimed at ages 7 upwards and I am buying for my 9 year old. There is also a "Shakespeare Sticker Dressing Up" book in the Usbourne "Dressing Up" series, so plenty of opportunities to use these activity books as a way of celebrating the playwright!

Escape to Shakespeare's World: A Colouring Book Adventure
I have my eye on this and will probably treat myself when buying the sticker books for my children! I've had a look on Amazon and there is a great 5* review by "Starry Night" who has kindly posted photos of the pages - they look stunning and gorgeous!

I'm sure there are many many more novels using the stories from Shakespeare - as he was inspired by so many that preceded him! I hope this gives you a few suggestions about how to introduce the plays to your children and help celebrate 400 years of fantastic theatre!

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