Listen now to Shakespeare .
Our favorite children’s librarian suggested a show featuring kid’s books that combine great stories with a clever and accessible introduction to Shakespeare. Our first reaction was “What a great idea!” and our second was “Get thee to the library and commence reading my good ladies!” So then, a podcast devoted to children’s books that weave together plain “olde”good stories with learnings from that well known writer from the bard. And a podcaster’s note: these would be be great books to pack in your carry-on for a family trip to London and the Globe Theater!
Our recommendations include:
Shakespeare Bats Clean-Up by Koertge – This is one of J Lisa C’s all time favorite books for young adults (and for those adults who appreciate “kid’s lit” too). Written in verse, it flows from one poetic technique to another, unfolding the story of Kevin Boland, a top teenage baseball player home sick with mono trying not to feel too sorry for himself. Bored one day, he reads one of his writer father’s book of poetry and begins to imitate the various types of verse in his new journal. And as he does so you learn what he loves, what he hates, and what he fears as he lives life as a teen.
Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt – We both LOVED this book. Written by Newberry award winning author Gary Schmidt, it humorously tells the story of Holling Hoodhood (yes, that’s really his name) who lives in “the perfect house” and is the only Protestant in his class. This means that he stays after school on Wednesdays while all of his classmates attend religious instruction at either the local Temple or the Catholic church. Holling is convinced his teacher hates him because she has to stay late – especially when she makes him read Shakespeare to fill the time. What ensues is a hilarious, heartbreaking and heartwarming story of a boy coming of age in Vietnam-era America, witnessing the wars his country is fighting, that his family is fighting, that his heart is fighting with his first love, and that perhaps he really ISN’T fighting with his teacher. Oh – and maybe he learns to like Shakespeare after all.
All the World’s A Stage: A Novel in Five Acts by Gretchen Woelfle – This is the only book in our discussion where Shakespeare is an actual character. This new novel follows the life of a young “cut purse” (pick pocket) turned stage hand, turned player who finally comes into his own as a carpenter. Unlike many books for kids about Shakespeare’s company and the Lord Chamberlain’s Men that focus mainly on the plays or on Shakespeare, this book focuses on the actual building of the Globe Theater (and on the men who made it). As such, it offers an interesting view of the importance of place in plays and the importance of the Globe to London and Shakespeare.
Other books about Shakespeare, not discussed on this show, but recommended to explore include:
Shakespeare’s Secret by Elise Broach – when Hero and her sister Beatrice (yes both named for Shakespeare characters) move to Washington, DC with their parents (scholars at a Shakespearean Library) the house next door and a boy down the street offer her a mystery to solve (involving Shakepeare’s true identity) and friendships unlike any she has held before.
King of Shadows by Susan Cooper – Time travel, plays, becoming an actor, and learning from the past all play a part in this novel about a 20th century boy who finds himself trapped as a Lord Chamberlain’s player in Shakepearean England.