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  • Spanking Shakespeare
  • Written by Jake Wizner
    Illustrated by Richard Ewing
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  • Spanking Shakespeare
  • Written by Jake Wizner
    Illustrated by Richard Ewing
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  • Spanking Shakespeare
  • Written by Jake Wizner
    Read by Mike Chamberlain
  • Format: Unabridged Audiobook Download | ISBN: 9780739363249
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Written by Jake WiznerAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Jake Wizner
Illustrated by Richard EwingAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Richard Ewing


List Price: $7.99


On Sale: September 25, 2007
Pages: 304 | ISBN: 978-0-375-89086-4
Published by : Random House Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books

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Read by Mike Chamberlain
On Sale: February 12, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-7393-6324-9
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SHAKESPEARE SHAPIRO HAS ALWAYS hated his name. His parents bestowed it on him as some kind of sick joke when he was born, and his life has gone downhill from there, one embarrassing incident after another. Entering his senior year of high school, Shakespeare has never had a girlfriend, his younger brother is cooler than he is, and his best friend's favorite topic of conversation is his bowel movements.

But Shakespeare will have the last laugh. He is chronicling every mortifying detail in his memoir, the writing project each senior at Shakespeare's high school must complete. And he is doing it brilliantly. And, just maybe, a prize-winning memoir will bring him respect, admiration, and a girlfriend . . . or at least a prom date.

From the Hardcover edition.


17 Down What’s In A Name? It’s hard to imagine what my parents were thinking when they decided to name me Shakespeare. They were probably drunk, considering the fact that my father is an alcoholic and my mother gets loopy after one glass of wine. I’ve given up asking them about it because neither of them is able to remember anything anymore, and the stories they come up with always leave me feeling like it might not be so bad to dig a hole in the backyard and hide out there until I leave for college next year. That is, if I get into college.

My mom used to tell me that she and my father put the names of history’s greatest writers and artists and musicians into a bowl and decided I would be named for whoever they pulled out. “I was hoping for van Gogh,” she said.

“Didn’t he cut his ear off?” I asked.

“Yes,” my mother said dreamily, stroking the side of my face. “To give to the woman he loved.”

My dad remembers that he and my mom always talked about giving me an “S–H” name to match the “S–H” of our last name, Shapiro. “We thought about Sherlock, Shaquille, and Shaka Zulu before we settled on Shakespeare.”

“You really wanted to make my life miserable, didn’t you?” I asked.

My father licked the rim of his martini glass. “That was the plan.”

The worst was the time my mom came running into my room and told me she finally remembered how she and my dad had come up with my name.

“We did crazy things when we were younger,” she said.

“Is this going to traumatize me?” I asked.

“Sometimes we would dress up in costumes.”

“I don’t want to hear this. You’re an insane woman.”

“We were doing a scene from Shakespeare on the day you were conceived.”

“I’m calling Child Services!” I yelled, running from the room.

Her voice shrilled after me. “Your father was Othello!”

Take a moment to consider the implications of a name like Shakespeare Shapiro. It’s the first day of middle school. Everybody is trying hard not to look nervous and self-conscious and miserable. I have intense pains in my stomach and begin to wonder if it’s possible to get an ulcer in sixth grade.

“Good morning, everyone,” the teacher says. “Please say ‘here’ when I call your name.”

Michael and Jennifer and David and Stephanie and all the others hear their names and dutifully identify themselves.

“Shakespeare Shapiro,” the teacher calls out.

The class bursts into laughter.

“Here,” I squeak.

She looks up. “What a fabulous name. I’ve never had a student named Shakespeare before.”

Everybody is staring at me and whispering. If the teacher doesn’t call the next name soon, the situation will become critical. Already I can see some of the more ape-like boys sizing me up for an afternoon beating.

“I bet you’re a wonderful writer, Shakespeare,” she says kindly.

I begin to wish for a large brick to fall on her head.

She looks back down at her roster.

Come on, I think. You can do it.

Her head pops back up.

“Just read the next name!” I blurt out.

And so, less than ten minutes into my middle school career, I’m already in trouble, and all because of my ridiculous name.

This is the story of my life, which has been a series of catastrophes, one after another. I’d like to say there have been some happy times, too, but the reality is that with seventeen years down, nothing much has gone right so far. As I begin my senior year of high school, here are the facts I wake up to each morning and go to sleep with each night:

1. After six years of elementary school, three years of middle school, and three years of high school, I have only two close friends: Neil Wasserman, whose favorite thing to do is discuss his bowel movements; and Katie Marks, whose favorite thing to do is tell me how pathetic I am.

2.I have never had a girlfriend, never kissed a girl, and spend most Saturday nights watching TV with my parents before whacking off to Internet porn in my bedroom.

3.My younger brother—two years younger—has a girlfriend, is extremely popular, and will definitely lose his virginity before I do.

I should warn you. Some of the material you’re about to read is disturbing. Some of it will make you shake your head in disbelief. Some of it will make you cringe in disgust. Some of it might even make you rush out into the stormy night, rip your shirt from your body, and howl, “WHY, GOD, WHY?”

Then again, maybe you’ll just sit back and smile, secure in the knowledge that your name is not Shakespeare Shapiro, and this is not your life.

From the Hardcover edition.
Jake Wizner

About Jake Wizner

Jake Wizner - Spanking Shakespeare

Photo © Kira Wizner

It was 2003. I had finished a middle-grade novel, The World’s Most Disgusting Sandwich, and was trying to get it published.
“It has potential,” a potential agent told me. “I’d love to see other books you’ve written.”
Other books I’d written? I hadn’t written any other books. I had written an anonymous poetry column for a teachers’ newsletter. I had written a bunch of essays in college and graduate school. I had written some irreverent songs to play on my guitar. “This is my first book,” I confessed.
“Well,” she said, “we don’t typically represent books, we represent writers. Are you working on something else?”
I had started on a sequel and began to tell her about it.
“I mean something different,” she said. “I want to see what else you can do.”
Oh, crap. “I have a few other ideas,” I said.
She told me when I had something written she’d be happy to take a look.
So I came up with a new idea in a hurry and started writing the fictional memoir of Zeke Zagger, the world’s greatest super villain that nobody had ever heard of. It was supposed to be funny; instead it was depraved, disturbing, and utterly distasteful. Reading over the first 20 pages, I began to worry about the state of my subconscious.

So I decided to try again with a new character, and the first thing I wanted to do was give him a name. Shakespeare. Shakespeare Shapiro. Wow, I thought, imagine being that kid. So I did imagine it, and I started to vent on paper. It turned out Shakespeare Shapiro had a lot to say, not just about his name, but also about his crazy parents, his maddeningly popular younger brother, his social ineptitude, and the overall catastrophe of his life. Much of what he said was depraved, disturbing, and utterly distasteful; but it was also really funny to me. And I guess it was funny to other people, too, because Spanking Shakespeare is set to hit the bookstores on September 25, 2007.

As an eighth-grade teacher, it is both incredibly exciting and a little bit nerve wracking to have written a book that I know my students–and probably their parents–will read. I’m excited to become a minor celebrity for the first time in my life, at least within the walls of Manhattan’s Middle School 255. I’m excited that my students will see me as a real live writer, and I will be thrilled if more of them are inspired to carry on independent writing lives. But I wonder how they and their parents will react to the fact that the book deals so openly with the kinds of things teenage boys think about. Just imagine parent-teacher conferences, if you will:

PARENT #1: So, Jake, we read your book.

ME (smiling nervously): Oh, yeah? Well, let me tell you how Becky is doing in class. Her writing is–

PARENT #2 (holding up a copy): Masturbation. Drug use. Pornography. You seem quite well versed in these subjects . . .

You get the idea. So to the question of how much of Spanking Shakespeare is autobiographical, let me just say that nothing has ever been proven. And as to the rumors that I’m now working on a musical called Castration Celebration, I’ll have to plead the fifth.
Praise | Awards


“Exceptionally funny and sweet.”—Publishers Weekly, Starred

“This brilliantly lewd novel is hilarious.”—Chicago Tribune


WINNER 2008 ALA Best Books for Young Adults
WINNER 2007 Book Sense Book of the Year
WINNER 2007 Publishers Weekly Flying Start Author

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