William Shakespeare — His Life and Times

Being An Account of This Gentleman and Poet In His Own Words

by Kristen McDermott and Ari Berk

Illustrated by Ian Andrew, Eloise Lambert, and Diz Wallis
Published by Templar Books (US/UK)
(UK) ISBN-10: 1840111585
(UK) ISBN-13: 978-1840111583

(US) ISBN-10: 0763647942
(US) ISBN-13: 978-0763647940

William Shakespeare—His Life and Timesinvites you to wander the streets of Elizabethan London with the Bard as your guide. Learn more about Shakespeare the man and the inspiration behind his work as you visit the Globe theatre, explore Queen Elizabeth's court, and meet Shakespeare's playwright rivals.


Learn all about Shakespeare through letters, pamphlets, facsimile scripts, play excerpts and more!


  • Perfect introduction for aspiring Shakespeareans
  • Engaging format makes history fun and accessible
  • Packed with paper novelties relevant to Shakespeare's life and world  
  • Brings Shakespeare's voice to life with rich storytelling and tenderness, providing readers of all ages a remarkable glimpse into his life on stage and off.

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PSLA YA Top Forty Nonfiction 2010/11

"This biography of William Shakespeare is an authoritative guide to Shakespeare's life and times presented in a tactile feast."


Hamlet Weblog [click here to read the whole review]

"This life and times of William Shakespeare is perfect for the inquisitive child who wants to know more about the bard, perhaps having watched Shakespeare In Love, or Doctor Who's The Shakespeare Code..."



"In this beautifully executed, cleverly designed blend of excerpts from Shakespeare's plays, inventive personal writings, facsimile reproductions of the argot of the literary arena of his times, and contemporary explanatory essays, Central Michigan University professors McDermott and Berk have created an imaginary scrapbook as if it were produced by Shakespeare for his daughter, Judith. Filled with the kind of pull-out letters and 3-D pamphlets that were so popular with Nick Bantock's Griffin and Sabine (Chronicle Books,1991), all the threads of Shakespeare's professional and personal life are drawn together against a backdrop of artwork from the Museum of London, the British Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. We learn of Shakespeare's grief over the death of his only son, Hamnet (Judith's twin), his opinions of his contemporaries, such as Ben Jonson, and his thoughts about his looming retirement. Included are poignant statements reflecting his anguish over his long separation from his family while he was away in London writing and producing his plays. The minutiae of sixteenth-century London theater is fascinating—why did the stage sweepers love their job, why did magic and ghosts and shipwrecks play such a key role in some of his plays, why did he revere Mistress Alleyn, the Globe's seamstress? The scrapbook concludes with a tender message to his daughter and a copy of his will. Contrary to the publisher's suggested age level (grades four to six), this novelty treasure is a wonderfully unique way for mature middle school and high school readers to get a flavor for Shakespeare's life and writing."

Reviewer: Beth E. Andersen


Through The Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews -- Editor's Choice Title (March/April 2011)

[Click here to read review]


Named on the "Noteworthy Nonfiction of 2010" list by the School Library Journal.

"The format of Kristen McDermott and Ari Berk's William Shakespeare: His Life and Times (Candlewick, 2010; Gr 6 Up) is as appealing and interactive as print can be offering a collage of fascinating illustrations (sepia toned pages and faux water spots create a weathered appearance), and sturdy lift-the-flaps, envelopes, and fold-outs to engage realia lovers. Readers will learn about superstitions, food, child-rearing practices, criminals, love, and courtly and other manners during the Bard's day. (Who knew old shoes were thrown at newlyweds for luck?) A variety of authentic-language texts and lithographs of playbills, costumes, and the like will intrigue hands-on learners, and immerse students in the Elizabethan era and Shakespeare's life and work, while offering lots of browsing fun."



Reading Choices For The Whole Family: 

"As Shakespeare prepares to leave London in 1613 to return to Stratford, he addresses this handsome collection of ephemera to his daughter Judith as a memoir. The authors have used original source material as the basis for a very entertaining collection of letter-in-envelopes, fold-outs, and pull-out flaps for a lively and entertaining interactive experience. Lavishly illustrated with period paintings, prints, and facsimile documents, this is a gift to delight the eyes, hands, and mind." - Barbara Britsch, professor emerita of children's literature, Lourdes College


Carousel - The Guide to Children's Books
(No. 46 October 2010)

"If you are looking for an introduction to Shakespeare, then look no further than this excellent book. ... There is never a dull moment. The pleasure of opening letters and lifting flaps to discover little nuggets of wisdom make it perfect for dipping into or reading from cover to cover. Books like this make you realise how much we'd lose if we lived in a world where everything had to be downloaded and read on an e-reader."

The Fourth Musketeer 
Reviews and More about Historical Fiction and  History-Related Non-Fiction for Children and Teens [click here for full review]

"...would make a valuable and entertaining classroom resource for teachers to have on hand when studying Shakespeare plays."

"As the holidays approach, I can't help but think but think what a lovely holiday gift this would make to a favorite English teacher!"


ReadTheSpirit.com [click here to read the whole review]

"As a life-long lover of picture books, pop-up books and children's literature in general, I'd be thrilled to find this book under my Christmas tree. I can only imagine the additional pleasure of introducing a teen to Shakespeare through such an immersive experience."


School Library Journal

"Gr 6 Up–This handsome biography, designed as a scrapbook that Shakespeare kept for his daughter Judith, is presented as "a recollection of his years and works…upon the eve of his departure from London to retirement in Stratford-upon-Avon." The portfoliolike volume is filled with facsimiles of documents, writings of Shakespeare's contemporaries, and synopses of his plays, all helping to piece together the facts of his life and the mores of the day. The "autobiographical" writing is laced with vocabulary that captures the flavor of the period, while the authors' informational sidebars use straightforward, clear prose to complement the flowing narrative. Historical details abound, not only in the text but also in the carefully selected "documents" that adorn the book, permitting readers to pore over everything from Elizabethan "Child-Rearing Advice" to period "Siege Engines" to a "Glossary" of types of thieves. While the basic facts of any well-written Shakespearean biography can be found here, this work also discusses his opinions of his friends and rivals, reveals his deep feelings, and conveys misgivings about some of his life choices. Abundant humor, quotes from Shakespeare's works, and some lesser-known facts add interest to the familiar story. Illustratively, the book is a feast for the eye, with backgrounds composed of high-quality period prints, paintings and sketches, and numerous fold-out facsimiles that pop out from the double-sided pages. Berk and McDermott offer a new perspective on the bard–that of the aged genius looking back on his life and career. Shakespeare lovers and teachers will be delighted."

-(reviewed by Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan)


"A handsome and lavishly illustrated introduction to Shakespeare's life and times, his work, his family, his Stratford, his London, his theater. An engaging glimpse into the life of a truly great author and dramatist, well designed to bring insight and pleasure to readers of all ages."


- David Bevington, Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago and one of the world's foremost Shakespearean scholars, has written or edited more than 30 volumes on Shakespeare and his contemporaries, including The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Longman) and the Norton Anthology of Renaissance Drama.


"This smart, gorgeous and lively scrapbook will wake many young minds (and older ones too) to the world behind Shakespeare’s plays. Like those plays, it’s packed with tasty details and images, intriguing hidden compartments, and a sense of the wonderful complexity of life."

 - Professor Robert N. Watson, award-winning scholar of Rennaissance literature and a Distinguished Professor in the department of English at UCLA where he is also the current Associate Vice-Provost for Education Innovation; Head Scholar of the Teaching of Shakespeare Summer Institute at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. since 1997.


Shakespeare Birthplace Trust / Shakespeare Bookshop Newsletter

"The year is 1613, and on the eve of Shakespeare’s return to Stratford his scrapbook is sent on ahead for his daughter Judith. Filled with drawings, stories and letters, her father tells of his own childhood, his life in London, the world of the theatre and his love for his friends and family.

    This clever and imaginative book is peppered with quotations and longer extracts from Shakespeare’s work, and there are brief synopses of his most famous plays dotted throughout. Each new section has all the traditional biographical details to frame each page, but Shakespeare’s ‘voice’ is present throughout in the creative blend of fact and imagined feeling. This is a beautifully illustrated book that is a real pleasure to read and explore. Letters can be unfolded, tiny play texts read and the door to the Globe theatre opened. The Life and Times of William Shakespeare is a really lovely book for a child but there is also much to appeal to and delight adults." (reviewed by Emma Mulveagh)


"A wonderfully compelling story..." 

 - Julia Eccleshare, Children's Editor of The Guardianand editorial contributor to Lovereading4kids.co.uk



"Authors Ari Berk and Kristen McDermott (both Professors of English), take you back to the year 1613, where on the eve of his retirement, poet and playwright William Shakespeare is compiling a scrapbook of his life and career for his daughter Judith.

This beautifully produced title is packed with letters, pamphlets, facsimile scripts, and many more paper novelties to bring the incredible world of William Shakespeare alive in your hands. It's the perfect title to inspire children's interest in literature and history. Suitable for Key Stage 2."

   - YoungWriters.co.uk (Teachers' Recommended Reads)


From Armadillo Magazine: 

"This book is an aesthetic joy and a fascinating mixture of fact and fiction.  These two aspects weave together to make an entertaining and invaluable introduction to the life and times of William Shakespeare."    [Click here for full review]

To order the UK edition of this book, simply click on its cover above!

To order the US edition of this book, click on the cover below!
A Few Words From The Author

25 February, 1613

My Child,

I am coming home, and to stay this time.

Thou marvell'st at my words! I know. I have spoken of it for nigh ten years now, and you and Mother grow weary of my promises. But I speak true as Troilus, and you will see me before Shrovetide so that we may share our Lenten pancakes together.

'Now my charms are all o'erthrown.' Thus begins the end of The Tempest, my last play. My Prospero shall speak these lines (and more, when I finish them!) as he retires from his island, abandons his magical arts, and returns to his life at home. I write this missive to you with the selfsame words ringing in my ears...