Six of the best retellings of Shakespeare for young people

Published on: 27 April 2018 Author: Lucy Christopher

Lucy Christopher has just written a brilliant book that's inspired by The Tempest, but with her own special twist. Here are some other books that will help your child fall in love with the great playwright's work. 

It’s actually really hard to find some good Shakespeare retellings for a young audience. In adult books, there are stacks of great titles – Smiley’s A Thousand Acres, Atwood’s Hagseed, Tyler’s Vinegar Girl, to name but a few. In fiction for young people, Shakespeare retellings seem to come in the form of illustrated anthologies, which are generally very beautiful but not all that exciting (no pushing of form or style). I find this strange, especially as many of Shakespeare’s characters are actually teenagers.

However, I have managed to find a few titles that may ignite your reading, and may inspire you to (in the words of the Bard) '…seek happy nights to happy days.'

Best of the Bard for older children and teens

The Tempest: Manga Shakespeare

Adapted by Richard Appignanesi and illustrated by Paul Duffield, Self Made Hero, 2012

I think there’s a whole series of Manga Shakespeare retellings but I came across this one when I was working on my own retelling of The Tempest. It is a really fun book, with great illustrations. The story has a bit of a steampunk feel to it, merged also with an Elizabethan vibe. Shakespeare’s text is easy to follow with the help of the clear illustrations as well as some interesting and useful bonus material on the characters. A great way to get reluctant readers into Shakespeare.

Sea Change

Aimee Friedmann, Scholastic, 2010

Another Tempest adaptation, and one that I discovered only after I had finished my own book (which I also originally wanted to call Sea Change). I must admit to having angry, jealous thoughts at first about this book having my title… However, I was soon enchanted by the novel’s dreamy tone and storyline. This book is set on mysterious Selkie Island and is a brilliant summer beach read, complete with hot boys, sunshine, and long, cool drinks on wooden verandas.

Street Love

Walter Dean Myers, HarperCollins, 2008

Award-winning author Walter Dean Myers uses Romeo and Juliet as his inspiration to blend love, hip-hop and the streets of Harlem into an intoxicating and beautifully written story in narrative verse. This book has everything going for it right now – it is wonderfully diverse, has a super strong and brilliant teen girl lead character, and is skillfully and poetically written.

Exposure

Mal Peet, Walker Books, 2016

Mal Peet’s writing is always clever, subtle, full of story, and satisfying. This book is no exception. In Exposure, Peet takes the story of Othello and sets it within the world of football star Otello in South America. In typical Peet style, this book could appeal to adults and young people alike. Oh, and it also won the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize.

Read our book review of Exposure

Exit, Pursued by a Bear

E K Johnston, Penguin, 2017

I haven’t read this book yet, but I want to. Not only does it have my favourite of Shakespeare’s stage directions as its title, it also sounds really interesting. It is a loose retelling of A Winter’s Tale and explores the idea of being a victim after Hermione has her drink spiked at a party.

Storm-Wake

Lucy Christopher, Chicken House, 2018

I had to include my very own retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest! I always loved The Tempest, but as a teen, it seemed as though the most interesting character – Miranda – was horribly underwritten. I mean, she’s spent her whole life growing up on an island with only her dad, a strange slave-boy, and a host of magical spirits – not exactly a conventional upbringing! I decided to imagine this situation now – who would a modern day Miranda be, and why is she in this situation? And is everything that she’s been told about the world always real?

Read our book review of Storm-Wake

STORM-WAKE by Lucy Christopher out now in paperback (£7.99, Chicken House)

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