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All the World's a Stage: Shakespeare-Related Reads for All Ages

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • July 17, 2020

The Summer of our Discontent?

With so many of our summer entertainment and adventures canceled this year, we are relying on literature to take us where we want to go. This week, we bring you Shakespeare Festival reads for all ages!

And—no surprise here—there is a veritable bounty of grand options when it comes to books related to William Shakespeare. Whether you're looking for The Bard's original works or something beyond, we've got some great options here for you. Read on for everything from board book toddler tellings to charming anthologies to playful reinventions to historical accounts.

Wee Babes and Young'Uns

Getting a solid foundation on Shakespeare is important for young readers. Much of contemporary literature and pop culture draws from The Bard's compelling storylines and echoes his quippy language.

William Shakespeare: I Love You by Kate Coombs
A Midsummer Night's Dream and Romeo and Juliet by Jennifer Adams
These two charming board books will inspire clever, literate babies and toddlers.

Shakespeare Can Be Fun by Lois Burdett and Christine Coburn
This series offers kid-friendly versions of many of the dramatist's plays for kids (second grade and up) from Macbeth to Twelfth Night.

Leon Garfield's Shakespeare Stories
A collection for young readers (grades 5 and up) of 21 classic tales, introducing not just the stories behind the plays, but also the richness of Shakespeare's language and the depth of his characters.

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
This Newbery-winning middle grade novel is about a seventh-grade boy, forced to spend Wednesday afternoons studying The Bard of Avon with his teacher, Mrs. Baker. Witty and compelling.

The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary L. Blackwood
Set in Elizabethan England, this middle grade reader offers sword fights, Shakespearean twists, and rich historical detail when a clever young orphan is pressured to sneak into the Globe Theatre to steal Shakespeare's newest play.

William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope by Ian Doesch
It's Star Wars, Shakespeare-style, and it is genius. A great read for the whole family. "But O, what now? What light through yonder flashing sensor breaks?"

Lads and Lasses

Teens are all about comedy, romance, and drama. Whether they know it or not, Shakespeare is exactly what they want. Here are some fun reimagined versions of the classic plays.

Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett
This fantasy classic brings together three unforgettable witches in an unlikely alliance to save a prince. The rollicking tale borrows generously, even parodies, some of Shakespeare's best-loved works (largely Macbeth).

Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills
Claudia finds herself in hot water when she accidentally overhears the breakup of Iris, a prickly, difficult classmate. Thrown together for their class production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, the two have an eventful senior year ahead of them.

Saving Hamlet by Molly Horton Booth
One night after drama club rehearsal for Hamlet, Emma accidently falls through the stage's trapdoor and finds herself in London, 1601, dropped into the middle of the original production of Hamlet.

Ophelia by Lisa M. Klein
An inventive reimagining of the classic tragedy, this version offers a more nuanced version of Ophelia's story and the hope of a happier ending for the spirited young woman.

Gentlemen and Dames

Playful adaptations of Shakespeare aren't just good for the youth. They're fun for everyone. Help yourself to a reimagining of one of your favorites.

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
It's Romeo and Juliet, only Romeo’s a zombie. This sweet, gory tale has been adapted into a 2002 movie.

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
This adaptation of The Tempest is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare Series featuring books by several other big-name authors, including Anne Tyler and Tracy Chevalier.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
Based on Hamlet, this is the story of a young mute boy who finds his life upended by his father's sudden death. When a malevolent uncle arrives and commandeers the family farm, he goes on the run, along with three loyal canine companions.

Fool by Christopher Moore
This comedic novel focuses on King Lear's fool, Pocket. After witnessing family drama unfold, Pocket uses his sense of humor to set everything right.

Learn'd Scholars

If you want to go further in your studies of the playwright who inspired so much of our modern entertainment, here are a few more volumes to consider.

Will in the World by Stephen Greenblatt
If you're interested in how Shakespeare became Shakespeare, this biography delivers. Learn about the development of the sensitive poet who was also an ardent student of human nature.

The Year of the Lear by James Shapiro
This history examines the year King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra were written. The book delves into the political and religious turmoil of the time and how this fervor set the backdrop for these famous plays.

Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human by Harold Bloom
Brilliantly illuminating each of Shakespeare's works with warmth, wit and insight, this book rests on a bold premise: that Shakespeare not only invented the English language, but also created human nature as we know it today.

Shakespeare's Language by Frank Kermode
One of the best books on Shakespeare's language, this highly readable analysis, offers a close read of The Bard and a clear-headed distillation of his innovative style and the evolution of his work over time.

We know this can't take the place of the rich experience of sitting in a darkened theatre while a brilliant and impassioned troupe of players performs these timeless, thrilling tales, but we hope it gives you a little taste of what you're missing. And for daily book recommendations, literary tidbits, and more, you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Read more by Ashly Moore Sheldon

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