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Tag: shakespeare

Words, Words, Words: The Bard and Me

Growing up with a high school English teacher for a mother meant that nothing was off-limits in our house when it came to reading. In addition to the usual bedtime stories of childhood, my mom often spun a kid-friendly version of whatever story she was teaching her students for me. As I was always a high-level reader, it was not long before I was cutting my teeth on the classics at my parents’ encouragement, and I vividly remember the day in April during third grade when Mom woke me with the announcement that “Today is William Shakespeare’s birthday, and he died on his birthday, too!” This fact tweaked something in my young mind—did everyone die on their birthday, or was Shakespeare unlucky? I never could figure it out.

Stratford Festival Theater

The summer after fifth grade, we started taking family trips to Stratford, Ontario every year. I grew to love Stratford as a place of picnics, pretty scenery, and great theater; but more than that, I loved the challenge it posed. The first trip, we saw a musical, but the summer after sixth grade, it was The Taming of the Shrew, and a few weeks before we went, Mom pulled down her battered Shakespeare anthology from a shelf and presented it to me. I remember the feeling of awe and intimidation that washed through me when I held it—this was my mom’s book, it even had her name in the cover from her college days, and it felt precious, almost holy. Shakespeare was harder than any of the classics I had read before, but I had my mom to help me with the hard parts. Seeing the play after reading it was a magical experience. I knew what was going to happen, but the effect of seeing the words on the page brought to life in the dark hush of Stratford’s Festival Theatre was something else entirely. This was the beginning of a lifelong love affair between the Bard and me. Every summer we saw a play. Every year I would take out Mom’s Shakespeare anthology and read it before I saw it. By the time high school rolled around, I had several plays and most of the sonnets tucked away in my mind.


Booklist: Shakespeare-inspired YA Fiction

If you haven’t already heard 2016 is a big year for Shakespeare and his famous First Folio! His First Folio will be going on a tour across all 50 states for the rest of the year. Check out more about it here

Shakespeare's Folio courtesy of the Folger Library

If you’re like me, you read Shakespeare in school and even on your own, and fell in love with his plays.

“What more is there to love?” you might ask. Well there is more than one way to love reading Shakespeare! These authors have retold some of Shakespeare’s biggest stories and some have set him center stage in the tale they have to tell. These stories are great for the most well versed Shakespeare fan, and for those that are new to the Bard.

Still Star-Crossed by Melinda Taub

This is the story of what happens after Romeo & Juliet. Their families are still fighting and no one seems to know how to end their feud. Then the prince comes up with a plan. One member of each family must marry, ending the rivalry. When Romeo’s best friend, Benvolio, and Juliet’s cousin, Rosaline, are chosen they are quite skeptical. Can they save Verona and their families?

Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty by Jody Gehrman

A contemporary spin on Shakespeare’s tale, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, this story takes place over summer break. Geena thinks her break spent with her cousin and her best friend will be one for the ages, but unfortunately things do not go as planned. This tale is full of mistaken identities, romance, and crazy schemes, making it a fun, modern day equivalent to Shakespeare’s famous play.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Another contemporary story with parallels to Shakespeare’s work, this time being King Lear. Cady comes from a privileged family, the Sinclairs. They have their own island where they summer, but one year everything changes and Cady is trying to figure out what truly happened to her that previous summer. E. Lockhart writes a twisting tale that would make the Bard proud.

Loving Will Shakespeare by Carolyn Meyer

This is the fictionalized story of how Shakespeare met his real life wife, Anne Hathaway. Anne is a simple farmer’s daughter and is quickly becoming distressed about her marriage prospects. When the much younger Will Shakespeare kisses her, their lives change forever. Read how Shakespeare’s own love story was fit for a play!


What’s In a (Book) Name?

It was Wild Bill Shakespeare himself who once penned the words “What’s in a name. That which we call a rose/By any other name should smell as sweet.” The words are spoken by one of the Bard’s more famous female characters, Juliet of House Capulet. She’s telling the hours-old love of her life that she doesn’t care that his last name of Montague brands him an enemy of her house. Whatever his name was, she would love him anyways.

image via Flickr User Leeds Museums and Galleries
CC v. 2.0 image via Flickr User Leeds Museums and Galleries

Once you’re able to part the curtain of deep sighs and introspective smiles at this grand romantic gesture, however, you find that you can’t count on Juliet’s statement as book recommendation advice. And really, shouldn’t that be what’s most important here? I mean, that play would be even better if it was about Juliet recommending books to Romeo rather than “falling in love” in the course of three days and faking her own death and being dumb and…and…and…

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Your Guide to the Literary References of Doctor Who

doctor_who_logoI’m a pretty big (although admittedly fairly recent) Doctor Who fan. My TARDIS “Bigger on the Inside” poster has pride of place by my desk at work and my Christmas tree will boast a Dalek and a sonic screwdriver. But some of the dialogue flies past me on the first viewing of each episode (perhaps the phrase “first viewing” gives a fuller sense of my devotion to the show).

I love that the writing is so fast and furious that I have to work to keep up, and I love being able to uncover new jokes and references when I watch again. And one of my very favorite things is when the Doctor makes a literary joke (or, better still, has an entire episode crafted around a literary reference). I mean, come on, how disappointing would it be to have a Timelord with all of time and space at his disposal who wasn’t really, really well read?!

So: what to read to get the Doctor’s best literary jokes so far? Here’s a list to start with:

 A_Christmas_CarolA Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – Doctor Who is a British icon and so is Dickens. Doctor Who Christmas specials have become a bit of a recent holiday tradition (at least in my house), and Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is arguably the best-known British holiday story ever; Dickens and the Doctor are a great match, and the show has done both a straight-up Whovian adaptation (titled, helpfully, “A Christmas Carol”), and an episode featuring Charles Dickens, “The Unquiet Dead.” Of the two, I prefer the latter, because the writing is rife with moments where we get to witness the Doctor and Rose influencing future classic literature while also imagining what Dickens might have been like in person. Plus, I like the 9th Doctor a lot.

Shakespeare (all of it) –  The episode written to make lit geeks giggle, “The Shakespeare Code” is so chock-full of great quips and allusions to the Bard’s work I’m still finding new jokes a few years later. Start with the sonnets, then work through the comedies (but make sure to hit Hamlet as well). Extra fun = watching the Doctor coin some of Shakespeare’s most famous lines. 


The Fault in Our Novels


October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Alyssa Finfer from New Jersey.


Let’s play a game. I’ll list some books, and you tell me which one doesn’t belong.Alyssa Graphic

  • The Catcher in the Rye
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • Jane Eyre
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • The Hunger Games

I bet most of you picked the last one. Why? These books are all well written and powerful, and I bet many of you have read most or all of them, some even multiple times (I admit I have). Because of their popularity, Hollywood has made movie versions of all of them, though some are admittedly better than others. Despite this, people traditionally study the first four in English class at some point in high school or college, but rarely the last one. Also, even though all these books fit the definition of young adult literature, “literature for and about the young adult,”[1] you won’t find the first four in the YA section in Barnes and Noble. What’s up with that?

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Teens Weigh In: Why Romeo and Juliet Endure

Well, readers and movie buffs, today marks the release of a new Romeo and Juliet movie adaptation, this time with Julian Fellowes (of Downton Abbey fame) putting the Bard’s words to screen. Take a gander at the trailer if you haven’t already:

Here at The Hub, we’ve covered remakes and star-crossed love, and today we bring you teens’ and young adults’ own thoughts on this ever-enduring story.

Which movie actors would you cast as Romeo and Juliet?

“I think Rose Byrne would be a good movie actress to play Juliet, because she landed her first role at 15 years old, and they were about the same age, and I think Romeo should be played by Leonardo DiCaprio.” –Genoa Juliet

“Orlando Bloom on Broadway” –Helen

“If we’re going more age-appropriate, I agree with the casting of the new movie: Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth. If you’re looking for actors a little bit older, I think I’d cast Eddie Redmayne as Romeo. He has that suave, leading-man quality about him from what I saw in Les Mis. For Juliet, I’d go with Condola Rashad. I just saw her on Broadway as Juliet (opposite Orlando Bloom) and she was fantastic!” –Luke

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From Classic to Contemporary: Romeo and Juliet to Warm Bodies

Classics — whether they are novels, plays, or epics — offer us great characters, interesting plots, and lots of things for discussion … but sometimes they can be a little tough to tackle. Sometimes we adore them, but sometimes we can’t get past page 3, let alone the requisite 50. That doesn’t mean that we should give up what they have to offer, though, does it? Many of today’s authors try to use these classic works as a starting-off point to write a more modern version. If done well, these contemporary versions can have a huge impact and impart the same wisdom that made the earlier story gain its classic status. Jessica Miller and I decided to find and examine some great pairs of classics and their contemporary rewrites to see if they are successful … or maybe not.

The Classic:  William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

romeo and juliet folger shakespeare library coverBy the time you’re in high school, you’ve probably been overexposed to this story and all the literary analysis that goes with it. You’ve seen both the Franco Zeffirelli film from 1968 and the Baz Luhrmann one starring a much younger Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, and Paul Rudd. And there’s another version slated to be released later this year in the UK, adapted by Downton Abbey favorite Julian Fellowes. If for some reason, you’ve never read it — not even the Wishbone version — here’s the breakdown.*

There are two families in Verona, a town in Italy (where Shakespeare set most of his plays. There’s a lot of talk about how he stole a bunch of these stories from Italian stories, but we’ll save that for another day). These families, the Montagues and the Capulets, and all of their servants, friends, and allies, have been at each other’s throats for as long as anyone can remember. When we enter the story, the violence between the youths of the families has escalated to the point where the Prince of the city has had to intervene.

Meanwhile, some of the Montague cousins (and family friend Mercutio) have discovered that the Capulets are having a party and decide to crash. They implore Romeo, the son of the Montague patriarch, to join them. He’s lovesick over some girl named Rosaline — whom we never see — and reluctantly decides to go. There, he sees and immediately falls for Juliet, who, it turns out, is the daughter of the Capulet patriarch. Much drama ensues, confusion prevails, and what everyone in 1597 thought was going to end up like a comedy (well, what they thought if they weren’t listening to the prologue) ends in tragedy and death.

The Contemporary: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

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Teen Reader Profile: Sabrina K.

sabrina feetMy taste level in reading is similar to that of food. Sometimes, I dare to be adventurous and try something new or exotic, wanting to experience different tastes or experiences from the norm. Other times, I stay in my comfort zone and eat the same thing over and over again because the expected is already known. No matter what my choice the choice is though, I always expect the best quality of food possible — in both presentation and execution.

At age 13, I found the classics to be my “calling.” The piece that stuck out to me most was Shakespeares Hamlet. I felt that I could relate to the Prince Hamlet, because I, too, felt that my perception of the world around me was quickly changing. The idea of backstabbing was all too familiar to me at age 13, and I wanted to read someone else’s account on how they dealt with the situation. It was this relatability that I had with the prince that lead me towards reading books that I, as a reader, could easily relate to. The sentiment of feeling alone, a weird teenager — that void was filled when I found books that had protagonists with similar stories and voices.

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From Classic to Contemporary: The Tempest into Tempestuous

Classics — whether they are novels, plays, or epics — offer us great characters, interesting plots, and lots of things for discussion … but sometimes they can be a little tough to tackle. Sometimes we adore them, but sometimes we can’t get past page 3, let alone the requisite 50. That doesn’t mean that we should give up what they have to offer, though, does it? Many of today’s authors try to use these classic works as a starting-off point to write a more modern version. If done well, these contemporary versions can have a huge impact and impart the same wisdom that made the earlier story gain its classic status. Jessica Pryde and I decided to find and examine some great pairs of classics and their contemporary rewrites to see if they are successful … or maybe not.

The Classic: Shakespeare’s The Tempest

The Tempest is thought by many scholars to be the last play that Shakespeare wrote alone. Written with a slightly different, more carefully worded Neoclassical style, this play relied heavily on the actors’ stage performances to bring the tale fully to life. Now considered one of Shakespeare’s greatest works, it has been adapted frequently, largely in musical forms, including over forty different versions set as operas.

The Tempest tells the tale of Prospero, a man who was once a great Duke. Through his brother’s machinations, he was deposed and banished with his young daughter. In order to bring his now grown daughter, Miranda, back to the life where she properly belongs, Prospero uses a great storm to bring the King of Naples and many courtiers, including his brother, Antonio, to their remote island. With the assistance of his air spirit, Ariel, Prospero manipulates those who have wronged him, finally bringing them before him for judgement, and ultimately forgiveness. He also introduces his daughter to the King’s son, Ferdinand, causing them to fall instantly in love, and secures their future marriage. The play concludes with Prospero leaving the island and his magic behind.

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Short Form Summer Reading Summaries

by flickr user sara. nel
Whether you’re a librarian, a parent, or procrastinator not too proud to admit it, you’re probably familiar with the question that comes up around this time of year regarding assigned summer reading. Not just panicked students requesting the books they need, but the slightly desperate plea, “What is this book about?” We put the question to the collective mind of our Hub bloggers, with the added challenge to summarize familiar summer reading classics in the shortest form possible. Here is a round-up of the quirky, clever, and funny responses we got:

From Sarah Debraski with an assist from Paul, some great haiku

The only thing you
need to know is Big Brother
is always watching
(1984 by George Orwell)