Friday, July 5, 2013

Shakespeare for Kids

Recently I saw a book at the local library that had been highly recommended by Kendra who writes the fabulous and informative homeschool blog, Aussie Pumpkin Patch. It was the "Usborne Stories from Shakespeare" and because I had placed it on my wish list after reading her recommendation. I decided to borrow it to see if it lived up to my expectations.

Little Agent Smelly re-reading Shakespeare just for fun!

Well people let me tell you, forget my opinion, although it did turn out to be a very good book, a certain 11 and nearly 9 year old were over the moon with this book! I ended up reading them a story a day!  In this book are the plays, Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Macbeth, Hamlet and it finishes with a short biography, The Life and Times of Shakespeare. The plays are of course written in language that the children can understand, with the occasional Shakespeare quote thrown in for good measure. The most perfect introduction to Shakespeare for young children.

This delightful book has inspired my girls to want to read more, and more and more of Shakespeare's works and luckily I managed to obtain 3 books, Leon Garfield's Shakespeare's Stories, Othello (The Young Readers Shakespeare) and Shakespeare's World - Health and Disease (a book on Tudor times through the plays and poetry of Shakespeare) from our local library on the sale desk for just 50 cents each. What a score!!!  We have started Garfield's book and it is also very good, it's just the next age group up from the Usborne book I think. The stories are a little longer and more detailed, which is perfect as they are getting more of actual Shakespeare's original works in this book but they aren't quite as easy to read as the Usborne one and they don't have the same lovely illustrations.

We also came across two of the girl's Grand-dad's books (the ones in red in the above photo). We think he may have used them at school as his name is written in the front and there are pencil marks and notes throughout them. The Fashionista was pretty excited reading all her Grand-dad's notes. The girls never got to meet their Grand-dad Doug, as he passed away before they were born and would be in his 90's if he was still around today so it is lovely that they could share in the same books that he used.

We also listened to these lovely audio versions of three of his plays as told by Jim Weiss. We love listening to Jim's story telling. He makes any story sound exciting.
We also watched Much Ado About Nothing, the Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson version, which I keep getting asked to rehire as they both thought it hysterically funny. I was actually rather surprised that they understood it to be honest. Note; For parents with young children there is a brief "uncomfortable scene" but it is integral to the plot. 
I do not like to spoil the enjoyment of a book by making them write book reports or laborious stories on what we've read but I did think that it might be nice to add Shakespeare to their Inspirational and/or Famous People journals. So I had them do some brief details on Shakespeare, details on his family, career, birth, death and their thoughts on him lap book style. We included a pocket with quotes (I was surprised at how many I knew too, although I didn't necessarily know they were his) and also another where we put pictures cards of his plays that I downloaded off the net. I put the play name and the year it was written under the picture. We haven't done it yet as I have only just purchased some star stickers, but they are going to pop stickers on those cards rating the plays that we have read with stars out of three.
I have got to say, although I hadn't planned to do Shakespeare this term, that it turned out to be so much fun, for us ALL. There was moaning, but it was for more of his works! We still have some plays to read but we'll take our time getting through them, now that we have some books of our own. We also plan to include some of his poetry in our poetry class next term.


  1. MTM,

    We had a similar experience with Shakespeare a few years back, amazing how they took off with it! anyhow if you are after more links I have some here

    1. Thanks Erin, I will be sure to take a look at those.

      Funnily enough whilst working on astronomy this morning I read out the names of the two Uranus shepherd moons and before I could read on, Miss nearly 9 said "oh those are names from Shakespeare's plays". Then because Uranus's many moons are either named after Alexander Pope or Shakespeares characters, as I read the lost of some of them, Miss 11 started to say who was who from which play. I wanted to jump and do a "touch down dance". They remembered something .. oh joy ... lol

  2. Lisa,

    I love your post!

    We are great Shakespeare fans and it was only yesterday I was wondering why I've only written one post about him for my blog. We've been working our way through the plays with the aim of being familiar with all of them. Not many to go! (We have had this goal for many years so no great feat that we've nearly completed it!)

    I like Leon Garfield too. Our library used to have some CDs of him talking about the various plays. I haven't seen the Jim Weiss audio versions. Something to watch out for!

    Not long ago we read the "Shakespeare Stealer" stories by Gary Blackwood. There's 3 different novels all set in Shakespeare's day, in his Globe Theatre. My girls LOVED the books! The books were very entertaining but we also learnt a lot along the way.

    1. To be honest I'd always been a little fearful of Shakespeare. I don't think I had the patience to decipher some of his work. I quite like using the ones that have been changed so I can properly understand them it makes reading his real work much easier.

      Jim Weiss ( ) is a professional storyteller Sue. My eldest just ADORES his CD's and we have amassed quite the collection over years. He is on FB too and is a delightful and sincere man. Am sure he would love your writings too as he enjoys good writing.

      The Shakespeare Stealer sounds great and will be on the look out for that. How sad The Globe Theatre burnt down. Wouldn't it be great to try and build another and go there for live perfomances? What an experience.

  3. Lisa,

    I will find out more about Jim Weiss. If the Fashionista loves him, so will we!

  4. Lisa,

    I 'liked' Jim Weiss' FB page. Then I discovered his recordings are available on iTunes!! I love how files can be downloaded instantly. I'll let you know what we think.

    1. My absolute fave (yes mine ... lol) is Masters of the Renaissance. I also love the short stories in the Greek myths, He and She ... ah better stop, just realised I enjoy quite a few.


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