REIMAGINED CLASSIC STORIES

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Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment Deserves it’s Classroom Reputation

by Jerome Tiller
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s’ Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment deserves it’s reputation as a good story for students to analyze in the classroom. Because I knew about it’s great reputation with secondary educators, I chose it to be the first book in our Adapted Classics collection. But I only partly chose it because its great reputation. It also suits my personal taste. And, most importantly, it perfectly fits all the criteria I set for selecting classic stories for adaptation.

I include a story’s pictorial quality—how well it will carry illustrations—as a major criterion. And wow—does this Hawthorne story illustrate well!  Marc Johnson-Pencook, with great artistic dexterity and imagination, transforms four main characters as they revert from old age to youth. I framed and...

Hop-Frog - Righteous Anger and Revenge

by Jerome Tiller
Middle school teachers can use Edgar Allan Poe’s Hop-Frog to explore and discuss the topics of righteous anger and revenge. Throw in bullying and it's a trifecta! These topics can grab and hold the attention of middle school students as they develop the skill of searching for meaning in literature. Regular topics for discussion in a middle-school english classroom? Not likely. But worthy of discussion in these tumultuous times? Absolutely—or anytime.

The Hop-Frog story introduces readers to a bully king and his bully counsellors. They had captured two dwarves, Hop-Frog and Trippetta, and forced them into service. The dwarves developed a deep friendship while in captivity. The illustration directly below nicely captures their relationship.

Hop-Frog & Tripetta

Bullying

The reader of this story can...

How We Work Together - Illustrator and Adapter - Illustrated Literature

by Jerome Tiller
How we work together, Illustrator and adapter, on our Adapted Classics collection of illustrated literature, required an explanation. Deciding how to explain my role was bothering me as I prepared to make a presentation to a fourth grade class of students at the Community School of Excellence in St. Paul, Minnesota. I knew it wasn’t bothering Marc Johnson-Pencook. He could talk about drawing all day long. He could demonstrate his methods of composition using the tools of his trade and the skills he had developed to become one of the best pen and ink illustrators ever. And he could do it on full display right there in the classroom.

But me? I’m just the guy who makes room for the...

'Good' Reviews are Hard to Get - You Can't Buy One.

by Jerome Tiller
'Good' reviews are critical to publishing success, but they are hard to get. You can't buy one. You can, but don't bother. Every high-volume book buyer knows about those phony, for-a-fee lures. And they avoid them like fish avoid rotten bait. 

‘Good’ reviews come in one size only. I discussed this in my last blog. I pointed out that selves (self-publishers) don’t get these reviews. But large publishing houses get them in bunches. That might give high-volume purchasers (libraries, bookstores, schools) pause to think about justice, but probably not. And probably not about honesty, either. I don’t doubt elite book reviewers choose the best books to award their ‘good’ reviews from among the large lots five giant publishing houses produce. We...

Why Adapt a Classic Story - A Fair Question

by Jerome Tiller
Why adapt a classic story? That’s a fair question. It deserves an answer. After all, classic stories have earned their timeless designation just as they stand. So why mess with them?  I have relatives and friends who wonder at my audacity or sanity for undertaking a venture like Adapted Classics. 

I am more inclined to explain myself to those who question my sanity. Some ventures are undertaken because of stupid expectations for success. As for audacity, I deny I am audacious. I never believed we were improving the classic stories we adapted. I simply believed we were making them more accessible. I thought illustrations and slightly modernized text might draw youth to classic stories, both for their entertainment and edification.

I did...

Feathertop Satire in Classroom Discussions

by Jerome Tiller
The satire in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Feathertop works well for middle-school classroom discussions. Many literary intellectuals say the satire in this story is too obvious to be effective. But aside from child prodigies, middle-school readers aren’t as full-blown heady as literary intellectuals. That makes Feathertop a perfect introduction to satire for them, and for me too.  

No question, the satire in Feathertop is obvious on the surface. After all, the story is precisely about the artificial masks humans wear to misrepresent what lies beneath. Middle school student will discover this surface satire immediately. Either that or they will easily accept the truth of it during a classroom discussion. 

Such classroom discussions should begin with the obvious satire on the surface of Feathertop....

Feathertop - Stranger from a Strange Land

by Jerome Tiller
Feathertop, a stranger from a strange land, appeared on a city street just as it peaked with life and bustle. His garments and poise suggested nothing short of nobility. He wore a plum-colored coat with a glistening star upon its breast, a waistcoat of costly velvet, a pair of splendid scarlet trousers, and the finest and glossiest of white silk stockings. Walking with measured paces, straight as a soldier, he managed a gold-headed cane with airy grace.

But the most remarkable point in this stranger’s appearance was the fantastic pipe he regularly put to elegant use. It had an exquisitely painted bowl and amber mouthpiece that he applied to his lips every five or six paces to puff deeply. Then, a...

Nathaniel Hawthorne - Hawthorne Illustrated

by Jerome Tiller
Nathaniel Hawthorne has impressed many literary critics and influenced many authors over time. He became famous early in his career and his fame has endured. Recently we sent advertising to school and public librarians to tell them how well-respected Hawthorne was and still is. We knew these career book collectors needed no reminder of that, but we told them anyway because we like shouting from the rooftop. Since we are trying to appeal not only to librarians but to the general reading public, we are blogging the same stuff we just shouted to them.

In Hawthorne Illustrated, master pen & ink illustrator Marc Johnson-Pencook interprets three of Nathaniel Hawthorne's best stories: Dr. Heidegger's Experiment, Mr. Higginbotham's Catastrophe, and Feathertop.  Here’s a...

Mr. Higginbotham's Catastrophe - Hawthorne Illustrated

by Jerome Tiller
Mr. Higginbotham’s Catastrophe holds down the second spot in Hawthorne Illustrated, our new Adapted Classics compilation of three illustrated stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Humorous at it’s core and sweet in substance, this story carries no overt moral messaging. That differentiates it from other Hawthorne tales. Mr. Higginbotham’s Catastrophe simply charms and entertains while spotlighting Hawthorne’s wry sense of humor, which he also melded into many stories with serious content. Told in typically beautiful Hawthorne prose, Mr. Higginbotham’s Catastrophe entertains, but it also serves as a fine example of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s versatility as a story-teller. You don’t want to miss it, especially our version, illustrated by Marc Johnson-Pencook. Marc’s illustrations provide cool oases on which to pause and refresh. Candy The main character, Dominicus...

Dr. Heidegger's Experiment - Hawthorne for Middle School

by Jerome Tiller
Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment leads a new Adapted Classics compilation of three illustrated stories for middle school readers by Nathaniel Hawthorne. We titled the compilation Hawthorne Illustrated and published it August 31, 2018.

In 2014, Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment, in single story form, was the first in our Adapted Classics collection of stories. To begin with, we liked the story as much as any we've ever read. Also, we knew it would fully demonstrate the amazing artistic skills and inventive mind of illustrator Marc Johnson-Pencook. As short stories go, few are as visually rich as Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment, and nobody renders pen and ink illustrations better than Marc Johnson-Pencook. Moral Lessons in Dr. Heidegger's Experiment Besides enjoying an entertaining story, middle school readers can learn life lessons...

Be Silent, Be Still — Illustrations fit well with Literature

by Jerome Tiller
Be silent, be still is a meditative prescription. Meditators of all types in all eras have practiced and prescribed quieting the mind to attain serenity, wisdom, self-knowledge, and more. And now, in modern times, given the increasingly noisy and complex environment in which we live, meditation serves more and more as a survival technique. Be silent, be still certainly makes sense if you can get there, and meditative practitioners promise that you can if you try. For most of us, however, getting there provides quite a challenge. Could I buy a pass?

Where do illustrations in literature fit into all of this? Our modern world does not lack imagery. More distinct images fill a minute of some videos than a whole...

Adding Value - Illustrations in Literature

by Jerome Tiller
Adding Value Adding value can become a preoccupation with property owners. Often the added value  involves aesthetics. For instance, in my youth countless young men customized their clunkers for aesthetic reasons. They wanted to give their rides a better look. 

But it was never all about aesthetic value. Naturally, not one of them thought their rides looked the worse for it after customization was complete. But they never thought their property had lost tangible value, either. Or had lost either kind of value even during the process of customization; many rides sporting primer paint dotted American streets during the 50’s and 60’s. Their owners were proudly in the process of adding value, aesthetic and tangible, having no doubts whatsoever about the aesthetic...

Hawthorne Illustrated

by Jerome Tiller
We attached the cover for Hawthorne Illustrated below. We put the book up for sale on August 31, 2018. Four months before we published it, we sent Advance Review Copies to eight VIP book reviewers nationwide. Unfortunately, not one of them decided to review it. That means the book will be very hard to sell to schools and libraries.

There are only a few reviewers whose opinions wholesale book purchasers rely upon, and those few reviewers focus on books from a few, large, corporate publishing houses. Small publishers call it the tyranny of the few!

Nevertheless, Adapted Classics always give it a try. Our attitude is - hey, we publish renowned English-language authors. Why wouldn’t a reviewer want to plug these guys...

Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote lots of good stories

by Jerome Tiller
Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote lots of good stories. Most readers know Hawthorne from the novels they were assigned to read in high school. Usually teachers would assign The Scarlet Letter or the House of Seven of Seven Gables. Maybe The Marble Faun, but probably not. My nephews told me they read Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment, one of Hawthorne’s short stories, in freshman English. That surprised me. The only short story I was assigned to read in high school was The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. That sure was a good story. Creepy. Hawthorne wrote creepy stories, too.

Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote lots of good tales, and quite a few of them were creepy, no doubt. But as with Jackson’s The Lottery, he composed them in...

Edgar Allan Poe was not sarcastic

by Jerome Tiller
Edgar Allan Poe was not sarcastic. In my last blog, posted April 10, I said Edgar Allan Poe was sarcastic. And I claimed Poe’s sarcasm was funny. I stand corrected. Going by the two dictionaries I use for reference, sarcasm is not funny. Sarcasm intends to hurt with mocking ridicule. Both dictionaries agree on that.

So that makes me dead wrong for saying Poe use sarcastic humor in the example I chose to demonstrate his humor. Either Poe wasn’t being sarcastic, or the excerpt I used wasn’t humorous. Intent to hurt cannot be funny, even when someone’s ego deserves to be chopped down to size. I don’t think I can have it both ways. The dictionaries have corrected me. A little deeper Still,...

Edgar Allan Poe was not ...

by Jerome Tiller
Edgar Allan Poe was not a humorist. Edgar Allan Poe was not a comic genius. Poe did not want his readers to die laughing—or leastwise probably not; he was, after all, a poor, starving artist and would need them to continue purchasing the magazines that published his stories. But Edgar Allan Poe was funny. He had a sense of humor and knew how to use it. Poe, being Poe, slyly inserted his humor into the framework of detective stories and macabre tales.

Poe’s humor was almost entirely sarcastic. Sarcasm falls within the form of humor called wit, which is defined as mental trickery. I addressed the subject of wit in a previous blog about Mark Twain’s humor.

But why try to thoroughly describe Poe’s...

Short Stories for Middle School

by Jerome Tiller
Short stories should make the syllabus when it comes to middle school. So says noted editor, author, and professor Dr. Donald R. Gallo. In his essay Short stories—Long Overdue, Dr. Gallo says short stories can offer readers a most enjoyable literary experience, while providing teachers with a flexible and varied teaching tool. And, he adds, the value of short stories increases when the students are less able or reluctant readers. Short stories put less pressure on these students simply because they are short. That in itself makes them more accessible and doable.

So why do some teachers bypass using this teaching tool in the classroom? Maybe because they believe the shortness inherent in the form doesn’t allow enough time for plot...

ArtWrite Productions - Sammy's Day at the Fair

by Jerome Tiller
Publication Dates Little ArtWrite Productions had postponed the publication dates for two forthcoming books due to lack of interest. But we have now published the books. ”Sammy’s Day at the Fair: etc., etc. and “Hawthorne Illustrated”, on August 1, 2018 and August 31, 2018, respectively.

In a December blog I announced the aforementioned books whose publication dates we then later postponed for lack of interest. I focused on pretty thoroughly previewing “Hawthorne Illustrated” in that December post. I also said why the other one, Sammy’s Day, etc., etc., though not a classic, has classic qualities and why you should be interested.

So here’s the explanations. The book “Sammy’s, etc., etc.” contains accessible scientific descriptions of a young lad’s working digestive system. Since classic...

Promoting Illustrated Literature for Middle School

by Jerome Tiller
One might think you would not encounter opposition promoting illustrated literature for middle school students. Who don’t like pictures? Yet I know there are some educators who believe unadorned print on the page is the best way to hasten the progress of adolescents into the full responsibilities of adulthood. Well, maybe. But I’d keep anybody longer in the drudgery of adolescence if it were up to me. Those were some pretty good times for the most part, looking back.

Seriously, this debate about the content of books for kids who are leaving childhood highlights an anti-picture attitude that some folks have, an attitude that annoys not only me but important people as well. Me has a bias. I am a book...

Mark Twain Made Mischievous Fun

by Jerome Tiller
Mark Twain made mischievous fun as a boy, and he never stopped making such fun. The practical jokes he played in his youth laid a foundation for some of the humor that would make him famous. According to some, all witty geniuses, Mark Twain included, developed their sense of humor after first playing pranks as children. I’m not sure about the truth of this. I would hope it were not so. Still, if it were to be true, anticipating this end result would probably provide some comfort to whomever has to raise a child prankster.

In essence, pranks embody tricks that produce surprise. But physical pranks also play out to the detriment of a victim. A victim hardly ever immediately sees...