The Shakespeare Stories: Henry V, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merchant of Venice, Hamlet Review
Author: Andrew Matthews
Artist: Tony Ross
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Publisher: Silver Dolphin Books
A review by Samantha Pearson
Andrew Matthews’ The Shakespeare Stories: Henry V, a Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Merchant of Venice, Hamlet presents four of William Shakespeare’s famous plays in an easy-to-digest format for kids. Accompanied by Tony Ross’ illustrations, Matthews re-imagines these Shakespearean plays as short stories more akin to classic fairy tales.
Each story is followed by a brief expository essay which breaks down the themes explored and how Shakespeare used them. It’s an effective means of exploring plot, character, and historical context, especially since Matthews begins the book with a brief lesson on Shakespeare’s life.
The Shakespeare Stories is a fun, quick read that will hold the attention of any kid who likes interesting stories about bizarre people. It’s also wildly entertaining for adults, especially if you’ve read any of the plays included in the collection.
Matthews’ retelling of Hamlet is particularly good, especially with the sullen lines of Ross’ illustrations. Although this play is classified as a tragedy, Hamlet is ultimately a moody teenager who’s throwing a fit. His behavior has sparked comics by Kate Beaton, satire posts on The Toast, and even a choose-your-own-adventure book (and game!) by Ryan North. Hamlet is the only story in The Shakespeare Stories written in first person, and it works really well.
Somehow, Matthews manages to take some of the most plot-heavy and confusing Shakespeare plays and break them down to their most basic elements. The language is easy to follow without lacking intellect or wit, and he stays true to Shakespeare’s concepts and characters. Illustrated short stories for kids are a no-brainer for getting children interested in William Shakespeare, and Matthews was smart to dive into the genre. He isn’t reinventing the wheel, but he is making the wheel accessible to a wide range of audiences.
Buy it! Whether you’re a parent, a teacher, an older sibling, a babysitter, or just someone who likes Shakespeare, The Shakespeare Stories: Henry V, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merchant of Venice, Hamlet is a really good time. Kids will love it. Adults will love it. It will keep everyone seriously entertained.