My new picture book, MABEL AND THE QUEEN OF DREAMS, is an urban fantasy bedtime picture book inspired by Mercutio’s soliloquy in Romeo and Juliet. Clearly, this is not the first, nor will it be the last, children’s book inspired by The Bard. Below are some other Shakespeare-inspired children’s books (picture book through young adult).
Little Mabel is an expert at not going to sleep. She knows all the best bedtime-avoiding excuses. “I’m thirsty.” “I need to use the bathroom.” “Will you tell me a story?” Luckily, Mom’s quiver of bedtime tales includes the story of the Fae Queen, who paints children’s dreams and can only visit when their eyes are closed. Inspired by Mercutio’s soliloquy in Romeo & Juliet, in which he details how the tiny fairy queen influences people’s dreams as she passes by in her flying chariot, the soothing story evokes images of an ant in a worn gray coat and a hazelnut-shell chariot with a roof of grasshopper wings.
Author-artist Nina Laden has taken her trademark wit and applied it to one of Shakespeare’s best-loved plays. Adults familiar with the classic love story will delight in the many references to the original play, all of which make this a rarity: a children’s book they want to read again and again. And young children who know nothing of the Bard will be riveted by this funny yet touching tale about Romeow the cat and Drooliet the dog, two star-crossed lovers who meet by chance, marry in secret, and are kept apart by a snarling rottweiler, appalled owners, and the animal control warden.
THE SHAKESPEARE STEALER series by Gary Blackwood
A young orphan with a valuable skill, a greedy stage director, and a thievery gone wrong … or right? With vivid characters and unexpected twists, this trilogy is a realistic portrayal of life in the theater during Shakespeare’s time.
This modern-day mystery surrounds a young girl’s family business, a mysterious portrait, and the grave of Shakespeare himself. She must figure out how they’re all connected to save her family from financial ruin.
A Robin Hood-like hero creates a dramatic love story all his own in this reimagining of Romeo and Juliet. It’s told through the eyes of Benvolio — Romeo’s cousin and the greatest thief in Vienna.
Fans of quirky adaptations of classic tales will love this new version of Hamlet, told entirely in texts! This is a fun way to experience one of Shakespeare’s most beloved plays and a humorous alternative to the more serious versions on the market.
The Wednesday Wars is a 2007 historical novel set during the Vietnam War. The book, which received a Newbery Honor medal, follows Holling Hoodhood, the lone Presbyterian 7th grader amidst his Catholic and Jewish classmates. Instead of receiving religious education, Holling is assigned Shakespeare’s plays. While they seem like torture at first, he grows to appreciate them for both their lively insults and timeless wisdom.
This story of rival houses in an Italian city populated by spell-makers has many echoes of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The Montana and Petrocchi families are bitterly feuding while their city faces invasion by outside armies. However, the two youngest members of the feuding families unite with hopes of ending the fighting and saving the city.
A simplified prose retelling of Shakespeare’s play about the strange events that take place in a forest inhabited by fairies who magically transform the romantic fate of two young couples.
OPHELIA by Lisa Klein
Ophelia is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, narrated by the young woman who was a minor character in the original play, though a significant one in Hamlet’s life. In this book, Ophelia’s story is explored in depth, beginning with her early years as she tags along with Laertes, her brother. She and Hamlet eventually fall in love and are secretly married. Yet Hamlet’s consuming passion for revenge ultimately comes between them, just like in Shakespeare’s play.
This is a novelized version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, a dark tragedy told here from the point of view of Lord and Lady Macbeth’s young ward, Lady Mary. The violence and power-grabbing that sweeps through the court envelops Mary and thrusts her into a world of danger. Enter Three Witches mostly follows the major events of the play and even includes some dialogue from Shakespeare himself.
King of Shadows begins with young Nathan Field rehearsing for the part of Puck in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Following a sudden illness, he finds himself waking up in 1599, playing Puck at London’s Globe Theatre. Not only is he in a wildly different time and place, his new director is the Bard, whom he calls ‘Will.’
Mimi Wallingford is a 17-year-old girl starring in her family’s Broadway production of Romeo and Juliet. Yet acting isn’t her passion and she desperately wishes for an escape. In a miraculous turn of events, she and her costar, Troy Summer, are transported to Shakespeare’s Verona. Once there, Mimi decides that she must save Juliet from her tragic fate.
The Fool’s Girl is a continuation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night that weaves in many historical figures, including the Bard. In the story, Violetta, the teenage daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Illyria, travels to London to find a stolen relic. As the plot thickens, she must work alongside Shakespeare to thwart an attempt to assassinate Queen Elizabeth.
In this story, teenage Agnes Hathaway loses her mother and is left to a wicked stepmother. Agnes maintains a friendship with Shakespeare from childhood, and as they reach adulthood a romance blossoms. Loving Will Shakespeare is drawn from the scant details that are known about this actual historical figure who is believed to have played a role in Shakespeare’s life.
A group of American and Italian teenagers spend a summer participating in a Shakespeare Scholar program in Verona, where they analyze and perform scenes from Romeo and Juliet. Romance between the teenagers quickly develops, with the novel drawing from the plot of Romeo and Juliet. It’s also influenced by lighter Shakespearean fare, such as Much Ado About Nothing.
FALLING FOR HAMLET by Michelle Ray, which lead to the E! TV show The Royals.
Meet Ophelia: a blonde, beautiful high-school senior and long-time girlfriend of Prince Hamlet of Denmark. Her life is dominated not only by her boyfriend’s fame and his overbearing family, but also by the paparazzi who hound them wherever they go. As the devastatingly handsome Hamlet spirals into madness after the mysterious death of his father, the King, Ophelia rides out his crazy roller coaster life, and lives to tell about it. In live television interviews, of course.