Wednesday, 6 April 2016


Adaptations of Shakespeare's stories for children have been almost too many to mention over the years. Charles Lamb, E. Nesbit, Leon Garfield and Marcia Williams' versions are among my own favourites.  But of course one man in his time plays many parts, and successive authors have brought Shakespeare into young readers' lives in all kinds of different ways.

Here Shakespeare is one of 8 works of 'Literature'
'adapted' into a biscuit tin (Victoria & Albert Museum)

As soon as I began to consider this, I knew I had to talk to Tig Thomas, an editor who specialises in period children's fiction. Her verve, precision and vast knowledge of both Shakespeare and his reincarnations have made this post possible. Huge thanks to Tig for some great discussions on this subject - in fact for several decades' worth of stimulating conversations about children's books - and for pinpointing nearly all of the perfect extracts you'll find below.  Our main focus has been on titles from the late 19th and 20th centuries.  It's intriguing that while some of the earliest works assume such familiarity with Shakespeare that the joke becomes how the plays are mangled and misappropriated, more recent novelists - including The History Girls' own Celia Rees (The Fool's Girl) - have turned to his plots, often reworking them in contemporary settings.

We're sure there will be plenty of extracts and titles to add to this mini-anthology of favourite Shakespearean scenes in children's fiction, many of which speak for themselves...we look forward to more suggestions and additions.

Shakespeare as character

Antonia Forest, The Player's Boy (1970) and The Players and the Rebels (1971)

These were originally one book, the story of Nicholas Marlow, a boy with an incredible memory who becomes Shakespeare's 'lad'. 

A measureless while later, Nicholas became aware of Will seated at the table, paper and a book before him, quill driving fast and steadily.  Nicholas watched him for a spell, not to catch his attention, just finding a sort of comfort in his presence.  But presently, Will, said without looking up, ‘Don’t watch me, Nick.  It comes between me and the words.  Read or – you should be in bed.’
He said ‘Yes, Will,’ and got up, knowing he should say good night and go.  But he lingered, asking for something to say, ‘Is it another comedy?’
‘No,’ said Will, with commendable patience in the circumstances. ‘It’s a history.  King Richard the Second.’
‘Who was he?’
‘Our last lawful king.’
‘Should I know of him?’
You will when I’ve finished this.  Or you can read of him in the Chronicles,’ he indicated the book in his hand, ‘if you’ve a mind to.’

 And here's Nick's first response to Hamlet:

‘He read it with interest and between cat-naps, automatically casting it as the plot unfolded.  Robin would play Ophelia, Sam might be Gertrude: John Hemings would play Polonius, Tom or August (the odds on August) King Claudius, and Henry Condall would play Horatio: and Ned, he supposed, would play Laertes, a part he’d dearly have liked himself for the duel at the end – he thought with fearful relish of the fight to the death against Dickon’s Prince Hamlet: for fond though he was of Burbage and accustomed as he was to playing opposite him, there were times, even at rehearsal, when Dickon’s playing of a wicked character could scare him half out of his wits – as he said to Will over supper, Dickon much preferred playing villains.
‘Hamlet isn’t entirely villainous, suggested Will.  ‘At least-his villainy is as much force of circumstance as nature.’
‘I’d have thought,’ said Nicholas primly, ‘That to spare your enemy while he was praying, so that you could murder him when you’d thought he certainly be damned, was the most evil thing anyone could think of.’
‘So it is,’’ said Will, amused, ‘And Dickon won’t gloss it.’
‘And he has Rosencrantz and Guildenstern murdered.  And they’re supposed to be his friends.’
‘Supposed is just.  After all, they’ve leagued with the king against him.
‘You don’t mean you like Prince Hamlet.’
‘It’s hard to dislike a character one’s written.  And Dickon should find him very much to his taste.  He’ll be able to do almost anything he chooses with him.’

Here in The Player's Boy - after suffering some serious supper-time stage-fright - Nick is about to appear for the first time as Juliet, a role he has only understudied: 

He knotted the lace and stood up. Most of the candles had been blown out, but there were enough to see by as he hurried down the room; and then, as he neared the door, a girl came towards him from a room beyond - a slight, graceful creature in a silvery gown, fair hair under a jewelled caul, grave steady eyes, an air both proud and shy - a haunting face; O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright.  He stood aside to let her pass, as she did the same for him: forgetting his dress, he bowed politely, and gestured her to come on; as did she. It took him an instant longer to realize he was looking into the Venetian looking-glass at the end of the room.

So that was how they'd see him. 
A phoenix-fire sprang in his heart, making a bonfire of his fears. He gave himself a last admiring look, swept himself his best curtsey, and went up the stairs to discover the Great Chamber ... and the rest of the company just where he'd been told he would.

Geoffrey Trease, Cue for Treason (1940)

I wonder whether Antonia Forest might have been paying subtle homage to Trease - his hero Peter steps unexpectedly into the role of Juliet when Kit suddenly vanishes:

"You know the lines, don't you?"

"Yes, sir--"
"Then say them, for pity's sake, say them." He clapped his hand to his brow, tragically.  "That's all you need to do.  The show's ruined.  We'll be lucky if they don't burn the theatre to the ground."
Willing hands helped me into Juliet's costume, fitted my wig, painted my lips and cheeks, and tried to perform the impossible task of making me look beautiful.  We could hear, through the curtains, that the play had begun, and that so far it was going excellently.
Shakespeare's had was on my shoulder.  His pale face masked his disappointment.  "don't let hem worry you," he murmured.  "Remember, you can act.  And the moon's fine to look at -- when the sun isn't there."

I hope I'll be forgiven for this slight spoiler, but it's a scene in the book which gives a great sense of Elizabethan theatrical life:

I listened, stiff and taut on the dark stairway, as the full horror of the conspiracy was revealed...

The Queen was to be murdered - that we had suspected all along.  She was to die in the middle of the command performance of Shakespeare's play.
It had all been thought out in devilish detail.  The conspirators had looked for an opportunity - not a sudden chance, but some definite occasion that could be foreseen.  Henry the Fifth offered the perfect opportunity: the Queen seated in her chair, with no one between her and the stage; an expert pistol-shot hidden in the curtains not twenty paces away...
"The man's name is John Somers," said the lazy voice above me.
I started. John Somers! I knew him.  He was one of Burbage's company, a disappointed, disgruntled player of third-rate parts.  I had often heard him boast of his marksmanship.  He was just the kind of man to lend himself to a piece of dirty work such as this.  And, of course, he'd be able to stand behind the stage curtains without any question.
"Lucky to find such a man in the company," Duncan was saying.
"Oh, most actors will do anything if it's made worth their while...."

Susan Cooper, King of Shadows (1999)

More Burbage here. Nathan Field is due to act Puck in a modern American company of boy actors coming to perform at London’s Globe. Instead he finds himself timeslipped back to Shakespeare’s England and the original globe where he must perform his Puck to Shakespeare’s Oberon.

Master Burbage called down ‘I told thee!  I told thee! So now I am thy Bottom, heaven help me.’
The bearded face tilted up to us. ‘Thou art my top and my bottom and all things in between, Dick Burbage, saving decency.  His eyes were a strange colour, a dark tawny mixture of hazel and green.  They shifted towards me: ‘Is this the boy?’
‘Will Kempe’s lad, who will not now be playing with Will Kempe.’ He poked me in the back. ‘Greet Master Shakespeare, boy.’
Shakespeare.  William Shakespeare.

It was as if he’d said, ‘Say hello to God.’

Early encounters and performances 

Noel Streatfeild, Ballet Shoes 

Does Ballet Shoes need any introduction? So much to choose from when it comes to Shakespeare. Here the oldest Fossil, Pauline, is introduced to Shakespeare properly by Doctor Jakes, when they are both stuck at home with colds:

She read the scene in King John between Prince Arthur and Hubert.  Pauline did not understand it all, but Doctor Jakes was one of those people who can really read out loud. She forgot to drink her ginger, and, instead, listened so hard that at last Doctor Jakes vanished, and in her place she saw a cowering little boy pleading for his eyes.
‘There.’ Doctor Jakes closed the book. ‘Learn that.  Learn to play Prince Arthur so that we cringe at the hot irons just as he does and then you can talk about reciting.’  She got another book, found the place and passed it to Pauline.
It was Puck’s speech which begins ‘Fairy, thou speak’st aright’. Pauline had never seen it before and she halted over some of the words but she got a remarkable amount of the feeling of Puck into it.  When she had finished, Doctor Jakes nodded at her in a pleased way.
‘Good!  We’ll read some more one day.  I’ll make a Shakespearean of you.’

After a memorably awful early rehearsal for Midsummer Night's Dream  ('And I!'), Pauline and Petrova learn to fly, but they find their costumes rather surprising:

Pauline had hoped their dresses would be the real fairy sort, with wings sticking up behind; but they were not a bit like that. They both had skin tights all over, Pauline’s in flesh colour and Petrova’s mustard, with queer turn-up-toes shoes to match.  Round Pauline’s waist and over one shoulder were pink flowers; she had a wreath of the same flowers round her head.  Petrova had nothing on beyond her tights, except a funny little hat.  They both had silk wings that fastened to their shoulders and wrists, and were so long that when they were walking they trailed on the floor like a train.  Nana, who had taken them to the fitting, was disgusted and said so.

‘Fairies!  Might just as well send them on the stage in their combies!'

And then there's Curtain Up (1944):

Uncle Francis let her get to the end of her first speech without interruption, then he told her to stand up.
‘That, my child, is said like a little girl at an elocution class.  Tell me, what do you think Ariel is like?’
Asked directly like that, Sorrel forgot the listening cast and forgot to be shy of Uncle Francis.  She had done absolutely nothing but think about Ariel ever since she had been told she might ply the part.  Except for her weekly rehearsals and broadcasts for the BBC and the afternoon when she had watched Grandmother’s play, she had hardly thought of anything else, and a picture of Ariel had grown in her mind.
‘It’s something not real at all, like the wind, that you’ve caught and does everything you ask, but all the time is simply longing to be up in the air again where it belongs.’
Uncle Francis took her chin in his hand.
‘Is that your idea or Miranda’s?’
Sorrel was surprised at the question.
‘Mine.  Miranda never said anything about Ariel.  We didn’t know she was supposed to play it till she wasn’t going to.’
Uncle Francis’s voice became more caramel even than usual.

‘It.’ He turned to the cast who were sitting round the stage. ‘You notice she uses the word ‘it’. My conception entirely.

Pamela Brown, The Swish of the Curtain (1941) 

The Blue Doors are taken to Stratford to the Shakespeare festival and later put on scenes from Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet themselves.
‘How wonderful to think that one man’s writings can make an international understanding,’ reflected Lyn.

Lyn and Nigel went from strength to strength, Lyn continually leading him on, and forcing him to act.  He was so happy to find himself acting well that he forgot the argument in which he said the balcony scene should be acted soberly, and once or twice laughed gently, gazing up at Lyn wiith adoring eyes.

The bishop sighed contentedly.  For the first time in his life he was seeing Romeo and Juliet at their correct ages and he knew that by taking them to the Shakespeare festival he had been instrumental in bringing this about.

Elizabeth Enright Then There were Five (1944)

People say the silliest things, thought Mona scornfully, as she started up the wooded hill.  I bet Shakespeare never asked anybody if it wasn’t hot.  She tried to remember if he had ever written anything about hot weather, and was pleased to remember one quotation immediately:
Fear no more the heat o’ the sun
I wonder how many girls my age could quote Shakespeare on suitable occasions that way I can, thought Mona and instantly stubbed her toe on a rock.

A little later...

Father and Mrs Golding continued their interview for some time, then suddenly past the partly open door drifted the unselfconscious figure of Mona.  She had a strange dreamy expression on her face, was wearing a wreath of nasturtiums and carrying nasturtiums in her hands.  She looked straight ahead of her like a sleepwalker, and as she walked she lifted one of the flowers and remarked in an eerie voice, ‘There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray, love, remember: and there is pansies, that's for thoughts. There's fennel for you, and columbines: there's rue for you; and here's some for me: we may call it herb of grace o' Sundays… she floated out of earshot.
Mrs Golding was obviously startled.  Indeed she seemed alarmed.  Father looked at her uncomfortably.
‘My daughter Mona,’ he explained.  ‘She is really quite sound mentally, in spite of appearances.  It’s simply that she has every intention of becoming the American Sarah Bernhardt, and lately we’ve had to put up with great doses of Ophelia.  That’s the Mad Scene you just saw,’ he added, perhaps unnecessarily.’

Ruth Sawyer, Roller Skates (1937) 

Lucinda is a wilful, passionate child sent to stay with a pair of elderly schoolmistresses in late nineteenth-century New York while her parents are away.  The schoolmistress gives her a great deal of freedom and she travels all over the city on her roller skates.  Once a week, however, she goes to her repressive aunt and sympathetic uncle for dinner.  After her aunt has criticised her once too often, she flares up and flies out, and her uncle sweeps her off to his study where he introduces her to The Tempest, which he reads aloud to her.  This is the passage about Lucinda travelling home after that encounter (later she and her friend Tony put on the play for twelfth night in Lucinda’s toy theatre, with a Caliban carved out of a warty potato):

Into the late, keen twilight of that September day Lucinda went in a state of pure rapture.  She wished she had her roller skates – thereby gaining a motion free, flying, that would give vent to some of the emotion within.  She thrust hands deep into her reefer pockets and took to a jog-trot.  Her head was tilted upwards that the rows of brownstone houses might be obliterated, that she might see overhead only that ribbon of sky which undoubtedly was unfurled over Prospero’s magic island.
So would she have run amuck several times had not passers-by given her a good thoroughfare.  ‘Ariel, I love you - I adore you.’ She was shouting it in whispers as she took the kerb.
‘Hey, you, there!’ a boy driving a delivery wagon was turning the corner.  He reined in his horse just in time to avoid running down Lucinda. ‘Say- what’s the matter with your head?  Can’t you look where you walk?’

‘I’m looking all right.’ Lucinda walked under the horse’s nose and turned to grin at the boy. ‘You see I’m not walking were you think I am; I’m walking on those yellow sands with Ariel.’

Elfrida Vipont, Flowering Spring (1960) 

Like The Lark in the Morn books, these are about an artist learning how to follow her art with integrity.  Laura is the niece of the Kit in the earlier books, and wants to be an actress but is at first too self-absorbed and prone to cry out unfairness. By the end of the book she has learnt not to let anything outside her power affect her work and she successfully auditions for a thinly disguised RADA.

She went into the room full of noisy people and sat down on a vacant chair. The girl with the pony tail was there again but most of the others were different.  They were nearly all behaving in just the same way as before.  Hardly any of them appeared to notice her and she shut them out of her mind, with all the noise and the fuss and the worry, and relaxed.  When at last her name was called, she was Helena-pretty, gawky, half-peevish, half-defenceless Helena. ‘Lo, she is of this confederacy’ - and Hermia was almost visible-petite, indignant Hermia - and gradually the room was peopled.  This was not a schoolgirl declaiming hackneyed speech; a world was coming to life.  ‘It is not friendly, ‘tis not maidenly -' declared Laura with a comical assumption of dignity, and even the critical judges responded with a ripple of amusement.  She was not playing for it; she was hardly aware of their reactions except in so far as she sensed the encouragement which comes from a responsive audience.

Antonia Forest The Cricket Term (1974)

Preparing for a school production of The Tempest:

‘Well-‘ Miranda ran her thumbnail under a golden frill of lichen. ‘Well, it’s about revenge.  And white magic starting to go black.  I mean – he’s just starting to be fairly foul to everyone – even Ariel and Miranda – only just when he’s got them where he wants them he decides he can’t go through with it.  Which is a terrible pity, I think. So he packs in his magic and settles for his dukedom back – which must have been terribly sad. Think how dull Milan’s going to be without even Ariel – ‘
‘You mean not a happy ending?’ said Nicola approvingly.

Rudyard Kipling Puck of Pook's Hill (1906)

The children were at the Theatre, acting to Three Cows as much as they could remember of Midsummer Night’s Dream. Their father had made them a small play out of the big Shakespeare one, and they had rehearsed it with him and with their mother till they could say it by heart. They began where Nick Bottom the weaver comes out of the bushes with a donkey’s head on his shoulder, and finds Titania, Queen of the Fairies, asleep. Then they skipped to the part where Bottom asks three little fairies to scratch his head and bring him honey, and they ended where he falls asleep in Titania’s arms. Dan was Puck and Nick Bottom, as well as all three Fairies. He wore a pointy-eared cloth cap for Puck, and a paper donkey’s head out of a Christmas cracker—but it tore if you were not careful—for Bottom. Una was Titania, with a wreath of columbines and a foxglove wand.

The children looked and gasped. The small thing—he was no taller than Dan’s shoulder—stepped quietly into the Ring.
‘I’m rather out of practice,’ said he; ‘but that’s the way my part ought to be played.’
Still the children stared at him—from his dark blue cap, like a big columbine flower, to his bare, hairy feet. At last he laughed.
‘Please don’t look like that. It isn’t my fault. What else could you expect?’ he said.
‘We didn’t expect any one,’ Dan answered, slowly. ‘This is our field.’
‘Is it?’ said their visitor, sitting down. ‘Then what on Human Earth made you act Midsummer Night’s Dream three times over, on Midsummer Eve, in the middle of a Ring, and under—right under one of my oldest hills in Old England? Pook’s Hill—Puck’s Hill—Puck’s Hill—Pook’s Hill! It’s as plain as the nose on my face.’
Mangling Shakespeare...

These books' assumed readers have enough knowledge of Shakespeare to get the joke when characters mess about with him.

Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, (1884)

The Duke and the King rehearse...

'To be, or not to be; that is the bare bodkin
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would fardels bear, till Birnam Wood do come to Dunsinane,
But that the fear of something after death
Murders the innocent sleep,
Great nature's second course,
And makes us rather sling the arrows of outrageous fortune
Than fly to others that we know not of.
There's the respect must give us pause:
Wake Duncan with thy knocking! I would thou couldst;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The law's delay, and the quietus which his pangs might take,
In the dead waste and middle of the night, when churchyards yawn
In customary suits of solemn black,
But that the undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns,
Breathes forth contagion on the world,
And thus the native hue of resolution, like the poor cat i' the adage,
Is sicklied o'er with care,
And all the clouds that lowered o'er our housetops,
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.
'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.
But soft you, the fair Ophelia:
Ope not thy ponderous and marble jaws,
But get thee to a nunnery- go!'

Richmal Crompton, ‘William Holds the Stage’ in William the Pirate (1932)

Inspired by a Shakespeare talk at school, a performance is planned. Despite falling in love with the part of Hamlet, William is given the non-speaking part of an attendant, but he is determined to be Hamlet to impress his love of the moment, Dorinda. When he is pushed on stage to stand silent at the start of the scene, he embarks on ‘To be or not to be’ to the horror of his schoolmaster, with some approximations, such as ‘the stings of arrow of outrageous fortune’ and ‘The thousand natural shocks the flesh and hair is’. This also has mention of the Baconian controversy in it:

‘Well,’ said Mr Wellbecker, assuming his lecturer’s manner, gazing round at his audience and returning at last reluctantly to William, ‘I repeat that I incline to the theory that the plays of Shakespeare were written by Bacon.’
‘How could they be?’ said William.
‘I’ve already said that I wished you wouldn’t keep interrupting,’ snapped the lecturer.
‘That was a question,’ said William triumphantly.  You can’t say that wasn’t a question, and you said we could ask questions.  How could that other man Ham-'
‘I said Bacon.’
‘Well, it’s nearly the same,’ said William. ‘Well how could this man Bacon write them if Shakespeare wrote them.’
‘Ah but you see I don’t believe that Shakespeare did write them,’ said Mr Wellbecker mysteriously.
‘Well, why’s he got his name printed oon all the books, then,’ said William. ‘He must’ve told the printers he did or they wouldn’t put his name on, an’ he ought to know.  An’ if this other man Eggs-‘
‘I said Bacon,’ snapped Mr Wellbecker again....
In order to be sure of making a good choice, he borrowed a Shakespeare from his father, turned to the scene (with much difficulty) and began to read it through.  He found it incomprehensible as if it had been in a foreign language, but he was greatly struck by the speech beginning 'To be or not to be-'.  It was long, it was even more incomprehensible than the rest of the scene, it went with a weirdly impressive swing.  William loved speeches that were long and incomprehensible and that went with a swing.  He mouthed it with infinite gusto and many gesticulations, striding to and fro in his bedroom.   He decided quite finally he would be Hamlet.’

Rudyard Kipling, 'The Propagation of Knowledge’ from Debits and Credits (1926)

Stalky, M’Turk and Beetle ensure that anyone they fall out with is punished in kind.  One of their teachers, King, has been particularly  offensive to the three boys, whom he loathes, and partly to get out of doing real work, and partly to get their own back on King, they create the diversion of introducing the Baconian controversy, firstly to King himself, who is so furious that he spends the whole lesson inveighing against it and doesn’t call in their work, and then during their Viva when it distracts the examiner beautifully and forces King to endure being congratulated as a teacher of Baconianism:

When the clock showed six-thirty the Examiner addressed them as 'Gentlemen'; and said he would have particular pleasure in speaking well of this Army Class, which had evinced such a genuine and unusual interest in English Literature, and which reflected the greatest credit on their instructors. He passed out: the Form upstanding, as custom was.

'He's goin' to congratulate King,' said Howell. 'Don't make a row! "Don't-make-a-noise-Or else you'll wake the Baby!"'...
Mr. King of Balliol, after Mr. Hume of Sutton had complimented him, as was only just, before all his colleagues in Common Room, was kindly taken by the Reverend John to his study, where he exploded on the hearth-rug.

'He-he thought I had loosed this-this rancid Baconian rot among them. He complimented me on my breadth of mind-my being abreast of the times! You heard him? That's how they think at Sutton. It's an open stye! A lair of bestial! They have a chapel there, Gillett, and they pray for their souls-their souls!'

Plotting with Shakespeare

E.L.Konigsburg, Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth and Me (Puffin, 1973)

Lonely misfit Elizabeth is befriended by another much more confident loner, Jennifer who claims she is a witch and invites Elizabeth to become her apprentice. Jennifer describes the plot fo Macbeth to Elizabeth and gives her similarly ambiguous warnings and reassurances to the ones Macbeth receives in the play. Jennifer introduces Elizabeth to her pet toad and tells Elizabeth that the toad will cause her pain.  Then she says that no animal born where rain can fall will harm her.  Finally she says that Elizabeth will have no pain until the home of the toad comes to her.  Elizabeth rationalises from the first warning that a toad might cause her pain – she suggests she might get a wart and have to have it burned off.  But she feels secure about the second and third warnings.  In the end, all the warnings come true, in exactly the way they do in Macbeth, and Jennifer is deeply hurt by the toad, born where no rain falls.

‘Where did you get him?’ I asked
‘Witches always have toads,’ she answered. ‘Toads are the first ingredient.’  She paused a second, looked up toward the sky and said ‘What’s the matter, didn’t you ever read Macbeth?’
‘Well no,’ I said, ‘I’ve heard about Macbeth.’
‘Every modern witch ought to read Macbeth,’ Jennifer said. ‘Those witches cooked up a wonderful brew.  Not flying ointment brew.  Trouble brew.  And the first ingredient to go in was a toad.’  Then Jennifer stared at me and recited:
'Round about the cauldron go;  
In the poison’d entrails throw.  
Toad, that under cold stone   
Days and nights hast thirty one  
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,  
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot.'   
 She stared at me the whole time she was reciting.
‘Did Macbeth say that?’
‘Of course not,’ she scolded.  ‘Macbeth wasn’t a witch. The witches say that as they stir their brew of trouble.  Notice they boiled the toad first in the pot….
‘What kind of trouble was in the pot’ I asked.
‘They gave him a warning.’ She said.
I thought a minute and said, ‘It doesn’t sound mean to warn someone.  That doesn’t sound like trouble.  Sounds rather nice as a matter of fact.’
‘It wasn’t nice,’ Jennifer insisted. ‘How can you be a witch and be good too? The two just don’t go together.’
‘What did they warn him of?’
‘The truth.’

Generalising wildly, it stuck us that novels for children which actually adapted Shakespeare's plots were something of a rarity in children's novels until relatively recently.  Mal Peet's retelling of Othello with a South American version of the Beckhams was one of the books that first inspired this blogpost.  

More suggestions here:

Voices by Sue Mayfield - based on The Tempest 
The Magicians of Caprona by Diana Wynne Jones - Romeo and Juliet
McB by Neil Arksey - MacBeth plus football.
Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K.Johnston  - The Winter's Tale
Shylock's Daughter by Mirjam Pressler
Fairy Wings and Fairy Lies by E.D.Baker
Enter Three Witches by Caroline Cooney
Joker by Ranulfo  - Hamlet

Many thanks to Nicky Smith, Jane Boyle, Jo DubĂ©, Ann Dowker, Bettina Vine, Anne Benedicte Damon, Jane Sandell for these contributions.  Di Henley offered this link to all kinds of retellings, including 18 Shakespearean ones:
And apologies for the mixture of fonts in this post, which only signifies far too much cutting-and-pasting too late at night!

More about Tig: 

Tig Thomas is an editor and anthologiser who entered publishing because of her passion for period children’s fiction.  She worked as a senior editor at Random House where she was responsible for re-issuing the Biggles series, and edited books by Joan Aiken, and Jan Mark. One of her biggest pleasures was working with people linked to the golden age of children’s fiction, such as Enid Blyton’s two daughters and Arthur Ransome’s executor, who used to be married to Pamela Whitlock, author of The Far-Distant Oxus.  She edits new books for Girls Gone By, an imprint responsible for re-issuing popular period children’s fiction by authors such as Elizabeth Goudge, Geoffrey Trease, Elinor M Brent-Dyer and Dorita Fairlie Bruce and for commissioning non-fiction about period children’s fiction.  She recently worked on a biography of Monica Edwards, and a guide to children’s books set in the Lake District. A particular interest in school stories is in her blood: her great-grandfather was Dean Farrar who wrote the much-quoted Eric or Little by Little.


Sue Bursztynski said...

Thanks for sharing some of the classic children's books with Shakespeare themes! May I add some more? Jackie French's I Am Juliet and Ophelia Queen Of Denmark. John Marsden's very unusual Hamlet.

Lydia Syson said...

Thank you, Sue - that was exactly what I was hoping for! I don't know either of those and look forward to finding out more about both.

Celia Rees said...

Thanks for mentioning of my own Fool's Girl, Lydia and for your very thorough survey of the many children's writers who have found so many kinds of inspiration in Shakespeare's life and his plays. in different ways. Might I mention Jan Mark's Stratford Boys? Told with Jan's usual mix of erudition, humour and pin sharp observation, it's a delight!

Susan Chapek said...

Thank you for a wonderful post--many of these books are completely new to me.

I own a lovely copy of John Bennett's 1897 Master Skylark: A Story of Shakespeare's Time with color plates by Henry Pitz (edition published in the early 1920's).

BTW, I know that publishers are beginning to issue graphic novel versions of Shakespeare--not adaptations, but including the complete text. If well done, graphics of classics can hook young readers, because the illustrations serve the same purpose as footnotes, while disrupting the flow of reading much less.

Lydia Syson said...

Thanks so much for the Jan Mark thought, Celia...definitely one to add to the first category!

And I'm completely with you about graphic novel versions, Susan, but had quite forgotten about them. One of my sons was a huge fan of the Manga Shakespeares ( but we also had Henry V in various versions from the same publisher (I think we'd won it), including unabridged. I've just checked and the publisher was Classical Comics, and they specialise in Original, Plain and Quick text versions of classic literature.

Caroline Lawrence said...

Wow! What a labour of love. Thanks for this Lydia!

Catherine Johnson said...

Lydia this is brilliant! So many new books I'd not heard of and need to look out.xc

Lydia Syson said...

Really, all credit to Tig!