an easy introduction to Shakespeare

by Andrew Matthews, illustrated by Tony Ross 
ages 6 and up / chapter books

Do you know the story of Twelfth Night? Or Romeo & Juliette? If you’re like me you probably have a general idea but the details are hazy. 

Every year we go to The Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble production – it’s usually a very family friendly affair and it’s always enormous fun. And every year I have a vague notion of the storyline but need to go hunting for more detail.

Our go-to for a quick plot summary is the series by Andrew Matthews and Tony Ross – we have about a dozen of their books and they’re just right to read before seeing the play.

This year, it’s Twelfth Night and we’ll be reading the book in the car on the way.

(Other years, we've handed a book around between family and friends to read ahead of time.)

The Shakespeare Stories are a fantastic series – the black and white illustrations are funny and help to dissipate the anxiety that sometimes accompanies reading Shakespeare. The story is always told in such a way that it’s fun to read but still gives the important plot lines and leaves room to discuss ideas and thoughts driven by the play.

I think the best way to enjoy Shakespeare is a live performance and knowing the general plot before hand makes it infinitely easier to keep up.

Max has been coming to the plays since he was a seven-year-old and The Shakespeare Stories were some of the first books he read alone for pleasure – he read them before and after the performances. 

I think the memory of the last play was always as motivational as the anticipation.

If a live performance isn’t happening any time soon for you and your family, The Shakespeare Stories are still great reads – they absolutely stand alone as great books and they can be read quite quickly. They’re perfect for boosting confidence in approaching Shakespeare and children who already enjoy the stories will certainly be less intimidated (and maybe even excited) when they start to study Shakespeare formally in high school.

Regardless – I’m sure everyone will enjoy these fast paced re-tellings of Shakespeare's classic tales. There’s romance, war, intrigue, deception and comedy all wrapped up in easy to read chapter books.

The full box set is on Amazon but I'll link the others to a general  series of Andrew Matthews books in case you want to try just one: Book Depository - Booktopia

Also - I Used to Know That Shakespeare: stuff you forgot from school. A totally entertaining easy-read about Shakespeare's life, synopses and the many words and phrases in our everyday life that we owe to The Bard.