After William Shakespeare died in 1616 two of his friends and colleagues got together to make sure that his plays were published in a collection that would ensure that they were enjoyed forever. Four hundred years ago in 1623 Shakespeare’s First Folio was published.

To celebrate the four hundredth anniversary of The First Folio we invited children everywhere to create their own Shakespeare-inspired book and enter it into a special creative bookmaking competition for Shakespeare Week 2023.

In this exhibition you will find a selection of inspiring books from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s collection. We have also asked several well-known children’s figures including children’s authors Michael Rosen, Marcia Williams and Martin Brown to create their own home-made books to inspire children to enter the competition. You can see their creative responses in this exhibition.

A special message from the Children's Laureate, Joseph Coelho

"Shakespeare was one of my first literary loves. I played Balthasar in my school production of Romeo and Juliet when I was in year 7. Not satisfied with my few lines I started to learn the lines of the other characters, (annoyingly) mouthing their lines whenever my peers started to act "I do not bite my thumb at you sir... but, I bite my thumb sir". I loved the musicality of the lines. This was an appreciation that only deepened once we started to get our teeth into Hamlet and King Lear for GCSEs and A levels. I loved the insults...

 "A knave, a rascal, an eater of broken meats"

 I loved the hints of stories and urban legends long forgotten...

  "Let the birds fly, and like the famous ape... break your own neck down."

The language suggested a deep and colourful world that I wanted to get closer to and so I learnt the odd monologue like Hamlet's well-known "to be or not to be..." and some of my favourite lines like King Lear's "O, reason not the need! Our basest beggars are in the poorest thing superfluous". The language leapt off the page and I am certain that if it hasn't already, Shakespeare’s words will leap off the page for you too.

For Shakespeare Week 2023 you get to create a book inspired by a Shakespearian theme, any kind of book you like, a poetry book, a pop-up book, a short story for Ariel or a love poetry book for Romeo, a Shakespearian cook book or something totally different.

When I was a kid I never imagined I could be an author and now twenty odd books later I can't imagine doing anything else. Maybe this competition will give you the thirst to continue writing, illustrating or even editing your own books or it might make you even more curious about the works of others. Maybe you'll seek out books with characters like you... maybe you'll search for books with characters totally different from you... maybe you'll write that book!

 Whatever delight this competition opens up for you I know you are in for a treat. With Shakespeare's wonderful plays and poems and characters and insults as a starting point you are sure to be in for one heck of a ride. Good luck and get bookmaking!"

 Joseph Coelho

Waterstone's Children's Laureate 2022 - 2024


Scroll down to discover some treasured books from our collection, the creative responses from children's authors and a selection of the children's Shakespeare-inspired books, including the competition winners. Every one can be a book maker - so why not have a go yourself and ‘Write till your ink be dry’!