Tales from Shakespeare, by Charles and Mary Lamb
First published over two hundred years ago, this classic contains the Lambs’ retelling of twenty of Shakespeare’s plays. In their Preface, they describe their commitment to use Shakespeare’s words “whenever it seemed possible.” The resulting stories are not only entertaining in their own right, but also do an excellent job of introducing children (and perhaps their adults…) to the plays.
The Tempest, retold by Franzeska Ewart
One of publisher A & C Black’s “Shakespeare Today” series, which retells Shakespeare’s plays in novel form for middle readers, this version of The Tempest is very engagingly told from Ariel’s point of view. It employs a lot of Shakespeare’s language and casually invites readers to reflect on themes such as love, loyalty, ambition, captivity, and freedom.
The Tempest, retold by Ann Keay Beneduce, illustrated by Gennady Spirin
Spirin’s illustrations are ravishing!
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, retold by Bruce Coville, illustrations by Dennis Nolan
Romeo and Juliet, illustrated by Margaret Early
Brick Shakespeare: Four Tragedies and Four Comedies, by John McCann, et. al
All the action in these eight plays is depicted through dialogue from the plays and photos of Lego figures in appropriate poses. With the exception of brief summaries at the beginning of each scene, there are no explanations of the language or descriptions of what’s going on in the plot. Hence, I’m not sure these would be very helpful introductions to someone who didn’t already have at least a little familiarity with the plays. But I find the image of a Lego Macbeth confronting three Lego Witches or a Lego Romeo courting a Lego Juliet to be pretty darn amusing!
Shakespeare: The Animated Tales
Each of the plays in this series has been animated as a half hour film by the leading directors of Russia’s Christmas Films. Actors from the Royal Shakespeare Company provide voices for the characters, and the resulting twelve films do an excellent job of using Shakespeare’s language and simple summaries to introduce youngsters to the plots, characters, and themes in each play.