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Booklist: Shakespeare Spinoffs

July 22nd, 2009 (06:41 am)

Current Mood: thankful
Current Song: Bring It On score music

Ay me! for aught that I could ever read,
Could ever hear by tale or history

- Lysander, A Midsummer Night's Dream

This booklist, as requested by Simmone, features books inspired by William Shakespeare. Some of the stories retell Shakespeare's plays, others fictionalize his life, and plenty feature school-based productions of his plays.

If a title is underlined, click on it to read my full-length review.

The Play's the Thing - Books in which fictional characters put on a Shakespearian play

Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman - PG - ****
I love this book! Though the main characters adore Pride and Prejudice, the story also involves a contemporary musical version of A Midsummer Night's Dream put on by high schoolers. Recommended.

Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson - PG - **** - Ages 12 and up
Scarlett's summer escapades include a production of Hamlet. She helps out behind the scenes while her brother and her crush play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. The play is only part of the layered story, but it furthers many storylines and her relationships with Spencer (brother), Eric (crush) and Mrs. Amberson (quasi-boss, for lack of a better term).

The Sweet, Terrible, Glorious Year I Truly, Completely Lost It by Lisa Shanahan (originally titled My Big Birkett) - PG - *** - Ages 12 and up
A lovely book with both lighthearted and serious happenings. It revolves around a teenager who - and this is just one of the many things going on in her life! - ends up trying out for her school's production of The Tempest at the suggestion of a cute classmate.

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt - G - *** - Ages 10 and up
The majority of the story takes place in Mrs. Baker's seventh grade classroom. In special afterschool sessions with the book's protagonist Holling Hoodhood, she introduces him to the works of Shakespeare. In addition to reading and discussing Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth, and other Shakespearian plays, Holling also portrays Ariel in The Tempest on the local stage. Vietnam, family discord, and political changes also factor in this book, which is set in the late 1960s.

The Juliet Club by Suzanne Harper - PG - *** - Ages 10 and up
A Shakespearian seminar in Verona, Italy brings together teenagers from around the world. In addition to discussing and performing scenes from Romeo and Juliet, they must also respond to the letters of heartbroken people who have written to Juliet for advice. The students fade in and out of crushes with each other while learning, writing, playing football (soccer) and wandering through the historic city.
Though this story is fictional, the Juliet Club really does exist. Visit julietclub.com and write a letter.

Romeo and Juliet -- Together (and Alive!) at Last by Avi - G - *** - Ages 8 and up
See what happens when a middle school attempts to stage a re-written version of Romeo and Juliet starring a boy who really, really likes the girl cast as Juliet.

The Comeback by Marlene Perez - PG - Ages 13 and up
Popular high school junior Sophie Donnelly is heartbroken when her boyfriend Connor breaks up with her in order to date Angie Vogel, the new girl in school. To add insult to injury, this all happens shortly after the casting drama of their school's production of The Taming of Shrew: Connor and Angie were cast as Katherina and Petruchio, while Sophie, who was used to always playing the lead opposite Connor, has been cast as Bianca opposite her best friend's brother, Dev. I wished there was more about the acting and the text in this story. I also wished that, when she pulled some things on other people (namely, Angie, but other characters as well), Sophie had suffered more consequences for her unkind actions.

I Knew Him Well - Books in which Shakespeare himself and/or his family members are fictionalized

Loving Will Shakespeare by Carolyn Meyer - PG - *** - Ages 10 and up
This fictious account of Anne Hathaway's life, from childhood through adulthood, details her home life as well as her life as it crossed Will's, from his own birth to his lifelong crush on her to their relationship, marriage, and children. I enjoyed this book. I think the title Being Anne Hathaway would have suited it as well.

Swan Town: The Secret Journal of Susanna Shakespeare by Michael J. Ortiz - PG - Ages 10 and up
William's daughter Susanna shares her secrets in a series of diary entries. She herself wants to be a writer and an actor. The story follows her life for about a year.

King of Shadows by Susan Cooper - G - Ages 8 and up
I read this title for the Scholar's Blog book group. In it, a hopeful young actor is transported back in time, meets William Shakespeare himself, and appears as Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

How Well He's Read - Shakespeare's characters and plays re-imagined

Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty by Jody Gehrman - PG-13 - *** - Ages 14 and up
When Geena's cousin Hero comes back from boarding school for the summer, Geena can't wait for her to meet her best friend, Amber, and work with them at the local coffee shop, Triple Shot Betty's. Loud, wild Amber and preppy, conservative Hero are like oil and water - they just don't mix. Throw in a bunch of guys - including a conceited recent graduate, an intriguing Italian boy, and Geena's lifelong classmate who is her academic rival - and someone's sure to reach their boiling point. This book is a modern-day version of Much Ado about Nothing.

Ophelia by Lisa Klein - PG - ** - Ages 12 and up
This novel has three distinct sections: One-third Ophelia's childhood and friendship with Prince Hamlet; one-third parallelling the play Hamlet; and one-third her life after the play. I love this book's cover and concept. I don't want to spoil it for those of you who have not read it, so let me say it this way: I liked the first part, tolerated the second part, and did not care much for the third part.

Enter Three Witches by Caroline Cooney - PG - ** - Ages 10 and up
Macbeth told from the POV of Lady Mary, a ward of the Lord and Lady of the house. I like many of Cooney's books, and many of those, I like more than this.

Wings by E.D. Baker - G - ** - Ages 10 and up
A young girl living in "our" world sprouts a pair of wings and goes on a magical journey to the land of her birth. Once she's there - about three-quarters of the way into the book - readers will pick up on the references to A Midsummer Night's Dream.

More Notes

In the comments below, I have listed other relevant titles which I have yet read.

Read one of my favorite passages from Hamlet and learn about a related song.

Read my article entitled Shaking Up Shakespeare, which expands upon this booklist.


Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: February 19th, 2007 10:45 pm (UTC)

I have yet to read . . .

The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood
Shakespeare's Scribe by Gary Blackwood
Shakespeare's Spy by Gary Blackwood

The Playmaker by J.B. Cheaney
The True Prince by J.B. Cheaney

Shakespeare's Daughter by Peter W. Hassinger
My Father Had a Daughter: Judith Shakespeare's Tale by Grace Tiffany

This Must Be Love by Tui T. Sutherland

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: November 4th, 2007 10:02 pm (UTC)

I have yet to read . . .

Something Rotten: A Horatio Wilkes Mystery by Alan Gratz

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: March 27th, 2008 05:21 pm (UTC)
Something Rotten

I loved Something Rotten! Clever retelling, and I don't think you have to be a Shakespeare nut to get the "in jokes." The jacketflap copy gives a good hint to the voice: "A stinking-rich family. A reeking paper plant. A murder most foul." Wonderful! And because I'm from East Tennessee, where the book is set, it had even more appeal to me. Two more Horatio Wilkes books are forthcoming, I believe: Something Wicked and Something Else (not the title - dusty brain right now!) :-)

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: February 19th, 2007 10:46 pm (UTC)

I have yet to read . . .

The Magic Tree House: Stage Fright on a Summer Night by Mary Pope Osborne

Posted by: mimagirl (mimagirl)
Posted at: February 21st, 2007 08:18 pm (UTC)

This was cute.

Posted by: capri pants. leather sandals. pregnancy. (37piecesflair)
Posted at: February 19th, 2007 11:10 pm (UTC)

My Father Had a Daughter - have it, but haven't read it.

Posted by: fa3ryg1rl (fa3ryg1rl)
Posted at: February 20th, 2007 03:10 am (UTC)

I tried posting a very large comment and LJ didn't like it. ;)
So I posted it as an entry in my LJ. Here is the link.


Posted by: simmone howell (simmone)
Posted at: February 20th, 2007 05:03 am (UTC)

thanks for this! i've been reading the tempest and thinking about how shaky pretty much covered the waterfront of human experience - interested in seeing how other writers take him on... i can feel a big amazon order coming on...

Posted by: fa3ryg1rl (fa3ryg1rl)
Posted at: February 20th, 2007 05:19 am (UTC)

If you enjoy The Tempest, there is a retelling that is a quick easy read and interesting called Ariel by Grace Tiffany.
Amazon orders...my favorite things!

Posted by: fa3ryg1rl (fa3ryg1rl)
Posted at: February 20th, 2007 05:20 am (UTC)

Don't mind the stray f that got stuck in there. ;P

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: February 20th, 2007 04:17 pm (UTC)

Have you been to http://www.booksense.com yet? It will help you locate independent bookstores in your area and place orders through those shops!

Posted by: fa3ryg1rl (fa3ryg1rl)
Posted at: February 20th, 2007 10:44 pm (UTC)

I actually have and there are only two within 15 miles from me and they are in a big city where there is NO parking and it's a big aggravation.
I have health issues and can't travel in the car for long either so the only option for me is the Barnes and Noble that is a mile down the road. I usually order from Amazon though because they are so much cheaper but I do buy things from the Barnes and Noble too.

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: February 20th, 2007 11:15 pm (UTC)

I wonder if any of the indie stores would ship you books. I bet you could find a cool bookseller who would do that for you if you asked, and you might find someone who can give you even more personalized recs if they follow what you buy!! :) In the meantime, I'll keep posting booklists and adding to your must-read list. ;-)

Posted by: fa3ryg1rl (fa3ryg1rl)
Posted at: February 20th, 2007 11:22 pm (UTC)

Thanks for the info!
The two stores about 15 miles away from me are listed as college bookstores so I don't know...
I'm thinking of starting to check out used book stores too, which I haven't done in years. You can find some really cool stuff there if you have the patience to look.

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: February 20th, 2007 11:24 pm (UTC)


Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: February 20th, 2007 04:17 pm (UTC)

I will look that up later. Thank you!

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: February 20th, 2007 06:54 pm (UTC)

Thank you so much! Have you read those titles? Which did you recommend the most highly?

Posted by: fa3ryg1rl (fa3ryg1rl)
Posted at: February 20th, 2007 10:38 pm (UTC)

Well I love fairies so I loved the series by Sarah Hoyt.
Romeo's Ex is next on my list and I haven't read Dating Hamlet yet.

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: February 20th, 2007 11:16 pm (UTC)

Fairies, indeed.

Hamlet's my favorite Shakespearian tragedy.

Posted by: fa3ryg1rl (fa3ryg1rl)
Posted at: February 20th, 2007 11:23 pm (UTC)

Romeo and Juliet has always been my favorite.

Posted by: mimagirl (mimagirl)
Posted at: February 21st, 2007 08:19 pm (UTC)

Wow, I have only read one of these, King of Shadows, which I loved. Now I really want to read Enthusiasm!

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: February 21st, 2007 08:24 pm (UTC)

Enthusiasm is SO cute. Click into my review and share the LOVE.

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: March 11th, 2007 09:17 pm (UTC)

I have yet to read:

A Mid-Semester Night's Dream by Margaret Meacham

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: November 4th, 2007 08:51 pm (UTC)

- and coming out in June 2008:
The Juliet Club by Suzanne Harper

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: January 13th, 2008 08:00 am (UTC)

From a. fortis: There's also Manga Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet, which was a Cybils GN nominee. It takes place in Tokyo. I haven't read it yet, but I look forward to it.

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: January 13th, 2008 10:01 pm (UTC)

Cool. I haven't seen that one yet either.

Posted by: mimagirl (mimagirl)
Posted at: January 13th, 2008 09:22 pm (UTC)

I read and liked SAVING JULIET by Suzanne Selfors. It comes out Feb 08.

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: January 13th, 2008 09:24 pm (UTC)


Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: January 14th, 2008 11:41 pm (UTC)
more Shakespeare

I have a list somewhere but please add Something Rotten in the State of Maryland - Laura Sonnenmark. Great fun. I will come back with more. One of Norma Johnston's Keeping Days books has a great Romeo & Juliet production: I think it is The Keeping Days but will double check.

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: January 14th, 2008 11:44 pm (UTC)
Re: more Shakespeare

Thanks for the suggestions. If and when I read those titles, I'll add them! Let me know about the latter - I'm not familiar with that series.

Posted by: morningstorms (morningstorms)
Posted at: March 10th, 2008 01:15 am (UTC)
JW // bedtime reading

I loved Enthusiasm - it is such an adorable book!

Have you read Welwyn Wilton Katz's Come Like Shadows? I haven't read it in years, but had thoroughly enjoyed it when I was a kid. It's about a production of Macbeth.

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: March 10th, 2008 01:41 am (UTC)

Enthusiasm is so much fun, literally and figuratively. :)

I haven't. I'll look into it. Thanks!

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