The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood is an enjoyable way for upper elementary and middle school students to learn about the historical background of Shakespeare’s time. In this book, a young boy, Widge, is taught to write in a special cipher by his master. He is bought by another man, who instructs him to sit in on a play (Shakespeare’s Hamlet) and to take down every word in this cipher.
Widge tries to do as he instructed, having little choice, but gets in various amounts of trouble and ends up being part of the players themselves. To his surprise, he discovers he actually has some acting talents. More importantly, he learns about friendship, loyalty, and how to make some hard decisions.
The Shakespeare Stealer is geared toward middle schoolers, but I don’t believe it is too young for those in high school. I enjoyed reading it myself and found it a good way to learn more about that time period, and seeing it from a young person’s point of view.
The Shakespeare Stealer won the ALA Notable Children’s Book Award, and Blackwood followed this book with two other books: Shakespeare’s Scribe and Shakespeare’s Spy.
There are several study guides available. There is one online that was created by some students at Salisbury State University in Maryland intended for middle and high school teachers. It includes various activities, websites, an author study, and other links pertaining to Shakespearean study. You can access this site at: www.faculty.salisbury.edu/~elbond/stealer.htm
Because of the time period, some people associate Shakespeare with the KJV. However, the KJV was published in 1611. Shakespeare did most of his work between 1589-1613 and he died in 1616. The Bible with which Shakespeare would have been most familiar was the Geneva Bible.
For those of you interested in learning more about this topic and more about the KJV and its history, the Manifold Greatness Blog is a good source. Read more about Shakespeare and the Bible on one of their latest posts: manifoldgreatness.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/shakespeare-and-the-king-james-bible-ships-passing-in-the-night/
Folger’s Shakespeare Library is a major center for scholarly research. It describes itself as ‘lively venue for performances, readings, and exhibitions’ and is located in Washington, D.C. Unless you can actually manage a field trip there, the best way this library can be helpful to us as homeschoolers is to check out their website, www.folger.edu, and subscribe to their emails. They have links to helpful sites, lesson plans for teachers, and news about anything Shakespeare. One of their recent emails had these links: www.shakespeareinamericanlifekids/index.cfm & www.shakespeareinamericanlife.org/teachers/lessonplans/index.cfm
Also available at that website is a fun slideshow, showing different ways Shakespeare has been used in America from advertising to crafts. Go to:www.shakespeareinamericanlife.org/slideshow/crafts_commerce.cfm.
Tomorrow night, November 17th, at 7:oo Dr. A.J. Hartley will be giving the keynote address for The Big Read Union County at the Monroe Library (316 E. Windsor St.).
Dr. Hartley, a British born writer, holding a M.A. & Ph.D from Boston University, is currently the Distinguished Professor of Shakespeare at UNC Charlotte.
Dr. Hartley has also written several books for adults and young adults including: The Mask of Atreus, Act of Will, Will Power, & Macbeth A Novel. Will Power was voted one of Kirkus Reviews’ best scifi/fantasy books of 2010.
For more info about Dr. Hartley and his books, see his website: ajhartley.net
Hope to see you tomorrow night at the library!
Shakespeare’s works can be introduced and taught to students of all ages. To get your younger (elementary and middle school) students interested in reading Shakespeare, have them first read some books that will entertain and teach them more about the time period. I will review and suggest some different books in this category over the next few weeks.
Susan Cooper’s King of Shadows is about an American boy, Nat, who is picked to perform with a new acting company who will perform at London’s new copy of the Globe, the theater William Shakespeare performed in. Nat goes to bed sick one night, wakes up well, but finds himself in the 16th century expected to perform at the original Globe with his costar, William Shakespeare.
Reading this book will give students a feel for the theater, the time period Shakespeare lived and performed in, and will introduce them to the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A website that contains discussion questions and suggested activities for this book is: http://www.multcolib.org/talk/guides-king.html.