Saturday, April 23rd marked the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, and institutions around the world celebrated the day with myriad festivities. Why not share the Bard’s poetic and dramatic gifts with your children? Prolific children’s book author Leon Garfield’s (1921-1996) adaptations of twenty-one plays are the place to start. The material in this volume is the first republished combination of two works: Shakespeare Stories, published in 1985  and Shakespeare Stories II, which didn’t appear until 1994. Both were published
by Victor Gollancz Limited.

Garfield’s ability to distill Shakespeare’s gift for intrigue, humor, wit, and adventure make this book a wonderful introduction to the Bard’s work. Neither simplistic nor boring, the stories capture the essence of Shakespeare with clear, accessible, and modern English. Accompanied by Michael Foreman’s original illustrations, Shakespeare Stories is a graceful, appealing introduction to Shakespeare. Though marketed to children reading at a fairly advanced level, adults intimidated by Elizabethan English but interested in discovering Shakespeare’s virtuosity for themselves might consider giving this book a chance–it’s far more entertaining than CliffsNotes.

Leon Garfield’s Shakespeare Stories, illustrated by Michael Foreman; The New York Review of Children’s Books, $24.95, 576 pages, ages 12 and up.

Happy Birthday William Shakespeare


Image used with permission from The Folio Society

Lord Polonius: What do you read, my lord?
Hamlet: Words, words, words.
(2.2 199-200)

The Folio Society has been preparing for William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday since 2006, when the renowned British fine books publishing house embarked on an ambitious project to print every tragedy, comedy and history in a large format, limited edition collection. The entire canon, including poems and sonnets, is now complete and color-coded by genre in individually numbered volumes. Zerkal deckle press paper, Moroccan leather binding and typeset in letterpress on hand-marbled paper, these books are a sumptuous tactile experience.

The series is a feast for the eyes as well; Shakespeare’s words stand alone, elegant and unobstructed by small margins and notes because the texts and commentaries are now in separate volumes. This affords readers the  delight of reading Shakespeare unencumbered by visual clutter.

Each page meets the Folio Society’s rigorous standards for quality and craftsmanship. These gems are also attractively priced at $545 per volume. Such beauty is fleeting – only three hundred copies of each volume exist.  What better way to celebrate the Bard’s birthday than by enjoying his work in such a wonderful manner.