The baby is napping…for now…so we’re back for part 2. In part 1, we looked at adaptations of A Midsummer Night’s Dream to see what the current offerings are and how they present the play for kids. This selection covers Shakespeare the man and the word he lived in.
It’s easy to underestimate the importance of introducing Shakespeare the man to young audiences. If we keep him as this sort of abstract presence behind the plays, it’s easy to be afraid of him. He gets elevated to a nearly mythical level and it can make the plays seem inaccessible. Once kids can understand he was just a person – a very talented person – but just a person, the plays themselves can feel more approachable.
Anyway, tangent over. Now to the books!
Bard of Avon: The Story of William Shakespeare
By: Diane Stanley and Peter Vennema
What I immediately appreciate about this book is that it acknowledges what we don’t know while promoting some of the most popular theories. They explain what some experts think Shakespeare was doing during his lost years, and mention the mysterious figures behind the sonnets, without giving a false sense of certainty. There’s a lot we don’t know about Shakespeare and it’s important to properly frame what we know and what we don’t, especially for young audiences. The book successfully introduces the topic and Shakespeare and leaves room for more discovery.
William Shakespeare: Scenes from the Life of the World’s Greatest Writer
By: Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom
This book is a bit more speculative without being clear about what is definite fact and what is theory. It is definitely comprehensive and fun to browse through. There is no story, but snippets from Shakespeare’s life with entertaining descriptors, speculative accompaniments to the illustrations, and informative side bars. The book is beautiful to look at and serves as a great introduction to the man, Shakespeare. However, it is definitely better for leisurely browsing than reading from beginning to end.
Sam Stars at Shakespeare’s Globe
By: Pauline Francis and Jane Tattersfield
Come to this book for a cute story, but not realism. Sam is a young boy who recently moved to London and gets a job acting in Shakespeare’s troupe. He learns about how to deal with rowdy audiences and stars in a variety of roles until he lands the one of his dreams, Juliet. It gives a general idea on how the theatre at the time worked, but isn’t particularly realistic. In addition [spoilers], Shakespeare tells Sam about his son that died to make him sad, so he can play Juliet better…because Juliet is sad. It was a little awkward.
Look Inside A Shakespearean Theater
By: Peter Chrisp
This book is straight up informative. It covers a variety of topics from the way the theater looked to how productions were staged to what the audiences ate. This would be another good one to browse through occasionally rather than try to read from beginning to end.
William Shakespeare & The Globe
This book is a little all over the place. There’s the main text which walks the reader through Shakespeare’s life, but then the illustrations have captions that provide even more information. It makes reading through the book challenging because the flow is broken up by the captions. However, this book covers the rebuilding of the Globe by Sam Wanamaker which is a great ending to the Shakespeare story. It helps pull the story into the modern day in a very cohesive way.
Whew! Finished before the end of nap time! What are some of your favorite Shakespeare books for kids?