Making Shakespeare Accessible to the Very Young: Usborne Illustrated Stories from Shakespeare

Illustrated ShakespearUsborne Illustrated Stories from Shakespeare. 

Ages 6+. (My has loved this book since he was 2 1/2.) Usborne. Sept 2010. 416 pages.  ISBN: 978-1409522232 ~$21.55

At a Glance:

I was so impressed with Usborne’s Illustrated Fairy Tales book that I ordered several of their other books, including this one.  I’ve been reading some of the stories (The Tempest, Twelfth Night, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream) to my son and we both love them!

What I Appreciate About this Book:

  • At the age of two-and-a-half years old, my son was BEGGING me to read The Tempest to him.  (That got my attention.)
  • Now, as a three-year-old, my son ADORES A Midsummer Night’s Dream and can even give a basic breakdown of the plot and characters (granted we’ve read it a countless number of times).
  • The stories are well told and make Shakespeare a lot of fun to read.
  • There are great illustrations on every page.
  • The plays have been adapted into story form and have been simplified, but not dumbed down.
  • The down side for us (which is not a down side for everyone) is that it includes Macbeth, Hamlet, and Romeo and Juliet — not stories that I am ready to read to him yet.  So I have had to make it clear that those stories are for later.  My dream version of this book would be only comedies with a separate book of tragedies
  • Also  there are very little actual direct quotes from Shakespeare’s plays.  This is good for clarity of plot, but if you’re looking to expose your child to the actual words Shakespeare used — this book has very little.  For us, this is fine — my son is three, he’s got PLENTY of time — and I figure that if he knows the plot the language will make more sense to him when we do go see or read one of Shakespeare’s plays.
  • I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  It is an amazing book to gently introduce even very young children to Shakespeare.  

Our Experience Reading This Book:

After reading the Usborne Illustrated Fairy Tales to my son and enjoying them so much, I started looking for other collections by Usborne.  When I saw Shakespeare, I thought I might as well try it.  It would at least be interesting to try and read this book to my son when he was about two-and-a-half years old.  I wasn’t sure if he would like it at all or if it would be something that would just collect dust on our shelves.  I figured, it being Shakespeare, even if it did sit on our shelves for years — eventually it would get pulled off and the shelf and read.  I have been so pleasantly surprised that my son LOVES this book at such a young age.  It’s crazy that at three he knows The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Twelfth Night, but it is also a lot of fun.  I can’t wait to take him to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream or Twelfth Night when he’s a little older.

I’ve had to watch out for Macbeth, Hamlet, and Romeo and Juliet –– also included in this book — because they are nothing I want him to read yet.  I have to put this book on a high shelf so he can’t flip through it himself (there are some spooky images).  It’s not a big deal, but it is something I have to be aware of.

If you’re looking to introduce your young child to Shakespeare, short of going to go see the actual plays, I think this book is a fabulous introduction.

Where Obtained:   Purchased myself about a year ago.  Reviewing this book solely because my son and I love it and I think you and your children will enjoy it, too.

FTC Disclosures:  Some of the links in the post above are Amazon affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase the book, I will receive an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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