Shakespeare and the very young

:: cast of The Tempest ::

while i knew that we wanted to attend the free performances of Twelfth Night, The Tempest, and maybe even Much Ado,   i didn’t know how absolutely captivated our house would become by these stories.  just this morning i was greeted with a “Hello Beatrice!” as i came down the stairs.  there is pretend play and dress-up, writing practice and illustration.  and always reading, studying, poring over images, hearing the stories just one more time.

the absolute best way to introduce a child to Shakespeare is to go and see a performance.  free summer shows are perfect for the very young.  there is often ambient noise, so no one will mind much if the baby starts to talk a bit.  and because not much has been invested, you can leave at any time if it just isn’t working.  here are a few of the standout resources we’ve uncovered this summer.

All the World's a Stage

this wonder of a book has been (in my opinion!) the best addition to our Shakespeare collection.  it’s illustrated by Anita Lobel (she’s married to Arnold of Frog and Toad fame!). each spread is a lovely tableau of the main characters and action.  there’s even a lovely quote from each play.  in the back there is a list of characters–dramatis personae, thank you very much!  Mabel has had a wonderful time figuring out who everyone is and how to write each character’s name.  this book would be a wonderful visual reference even for an older student.

The Random House Book of Shakespeare Stories (Random House Book of...)

the uninspired title of this book meant that i never would have picked this edition out myself.  but that would have been a mistake.  the retelling is beautiful and clear.  the illustrations are luminous.  this is by far my favorite version to read aloud.

The Tempest The Graphic Novel: Original Text

we got this original language graphic novel for ourselves, but Mabel soon took it over.  it’s not exactly 4 year old friendly, not the “luminous” illustrations of the Random House collection.  but for a girl who can’t read yet, who depends on being able to read the pictures, this book gave her so much more information.  she took this edition to the performance (you can just barely see it in this picture!) and followed along scene by scene.  this would be a great edition to use while listening to an audio production of the plays.

Mabel’s favorite collection is called Green Tiger’s Illustrated Stories from Shakespeare.  the text is by E. Nesbit, but what M enjoys is the 19th century illustrations.  we’ve also used More Tales from Shakespeare by Marsha Williams.  while i’m not crazy about the illustrations, i do like the layout and the bits of original language.  we also watched Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing, and the 1999 version of Midsummer Night’s Dream with Kevin Kline and Michelle Pfeiffer.  thanks, Netflix!


  1. we have a great book of illustrated shakespeare stories that the boys loved when they were younger; i’ll have to check the title & share it with you. xo

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