We’ve told you plenty about our new favorite books: How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare and A Horse with Wings, both of which were featured presentations by the authors during our Conference on Teaching Shakespeare in the Elementary Classroom this week. Now that you’re in “summer-mode,” though, maybe you’d prefer a little something more to explore your favorite Shakespearean characters or history? Something just for YOU. I’ve got you covered.
Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion shocked me with its insight and emotional impact. Post-Zombie Apocalypse, the world is pretty much divided between the struggling surviving humans and the remaining zombies. One zombie, R, (he can’t remember his whole name), experiences moments from the life of one of his victims after eating his brain, and finds himself changing in ways no one expected. He protects a human teenager, Julie, and together they find a way to adapt to the new world in which they live. The danger from both sides is still very weighty, but these future star-cross’d partners have hope on their side. The bonus to this book is that there has already been a good-looking movie adaptation to compare!
Very rarely do I see novel adaptations of Shakespeare’s comedies. Lisa Klein’s Love Disguised isn’t necessarily an adaptation of one comedy, rather it is an imagined set of circumstances in Shakespeare’s young life which exposes him to all of the elements and characters he can use and re-use later when writing the comedies. Spunky female heroines, cross-dressing, twins, wrecks, inn-yards, mechanicals, bad luck, and even the legal system play a part in inspiring the future bard. The author knows her stuff, and has such fun with this premise that reading the book flies!
Speaking of potential inspiration in Shakespeare’s lifetime, Kathryn Johnson’s The Gentleman Poet uses the historical account of the shipwrecked Sea Venture, which had been en route to America in 1607 and went down in the Bermudas. Miraculously, most of the passengers and crew survived and were able to rebuild well enough to hobble to Jamestown about a year later. The news captivated Shakespeare’s England, and may have inspired The Tempest. While this is a fictional account, the details of island life are unbelievably true.
For a stretch, I also recommend the insightful, and maybe disturbing, account of a family falling apart from the perspective of the family dog in Matt Haig’s The Labrador Pact. With shades of Shakespeare’s Henriad, Prince the dog tries to resist temptation and remain the true, devoted family member he believes he was destined to be by birth and training.
I also highly recommend a couple of audiobooks (also available in print) which provided me with hours of entertainment and wonderful education:
Macbeth by A.J. Hartley, David Hewson narrated by Alan Cumming – the subject matter is very dark, but if you’re experiencing a heat wave, this chilling account of the Scot’s events will cool you right off. (By the way, has anyone gotten to see Cumming’s turn on Broadway in the almost-one-man conceptual staging of Macbeth? How was it?!)
Agincourt by Bernard Cornwell narrated by Charles Keating – Henry V’s great war is the subject of this novel, and the author does not shy from the horrors of war in the 15th century. However, like The Gentleman Poet, this book builds on the history of the era to create an inspirational human experience worthy of Shakespeare’s pen.
Enjoy your summer, and let us know what you’re reading!