Booklist: Shakespeare Spinoffs
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.
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.