Accessible Classic Literature for Middle-School

by Jerome Tiller
Accessible classic literature for middle-school readers? Poe Illustrated fills that bill. This Edgar Allan Poe collection is availabe now. It was published November 15, 2021. It includes three illustrated Poe stories - our previously published Thou Art the Man and Hop-Frog, plus a new Adapted Classics title - The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether.

We know many middle school students like reading classic literature just as originally written and presented. But we also know that many readers in this age group reject this type of reading matter for personal enjoyment. And, for that matter, they would prefer to reject it as a classroom assignment. Therefore, we publish illustrated classic literature...

FollettBound! Classics Deserve Protection!

by Jerome Tiller
FollettBound! Because classics deserve protection! These special bindings carry a Lifetime-Guarantee! What better partner for the timeless, illustrated classic stories we publish? Adapted Classics declares it’s a perfect match. And why? We adapt our illustrated classics for middle school readers. They are not known to be the easiest handlers of books, are they?

Follett School Solutions and Baker and Taylor have schools and libraries covered. They provide a lifetime guarantee for all of their FollettBound books – if the binding fails, they’ll replace the book.

Replacement, check! But that’s not enough. For when librarians and school administrators go shopping for middle schoolers, they look for more. They want heady, yet accessible books for the middle school crowd. Plus, entertainment value!

Feathertop-Nathaniel Hawthorne's Last Story

by Jerome Tiller
Feathertop was the last story Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote. Most literary critics do not rank it with his best. They usually find the story too far-fetched and its moral message too obvious. Both these criticisms may be valid, but it’ s also very difficult to please literary critics. Did they overlook Feathertop’s entertainment value? Mother Rigby certainly makes her disdain for human phoniness very obvious, but she does so with humorous digs and disses that have held up very well over time. 

And when Feathertop gains self-awareness, when he realizes he is but a scarecrow stuffed with straw, his surrender to truth contrasts sharply with the humans he met who were blindly or casually superficial. At least one critic thinks that’s...

The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether

by Jerome Tiller
The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether shows Edgar Allan Poe’s dark sense of humor to great effect. We will include it in Poe Illustrated, our collection of three illustrated stories by Edgar Allan Poe.

Poe wrote The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether in 1845.  About 50 years prior to that, French doctor Phillipe Penel had devised a gentle system for treating mentally ill patients. Poe created a similar ’soothing’ system for treating patients in the House of Health, the asylum setting for this humorous, yet controversial story.

Despite Penel’s well-publicized innovation, harsh treatment of mental patients persisted in asylums world-wide. Maybe Poe was trying to promote Penel’s gentle methods when he wrote his story. Or perhaps not. To this day scholars who analyze literature or try to psychoanalyze Poe don’t know what hidden rationale motivated him to write it.

Some guess Poe was questioning the yet unproven idea that ordinary citizens...

Library Purchasing Decisions might seem Mysterious

by Jerome Tiller
Library purchasing decisions might seem mysterious, but they are not. Libraries simply seek to fulfill customer demand. And what creates that demand? Well, the public will always want to read books by or about celebrities.  And good reviews, regardless of the author or subject, usually or sometimes create demand for books. Acquisition librarians try their best to solve the riddle of ‘usually’ or ‘sometimes’. Within the riddle lies most of the gamble that libraries take in trying to satisfy public demand. And there’s always publicity, whether purchased or otherwise. And of course, libraries will also purchase under-the-radar books if requested by multiple customers. It always works best for them if those few requesters represent demand by the many.

Looking for hi-lo books? Sammy's Day at the Fair fits.

by Jerome Tiller
Looking for hi-lo books? Sammy's Day at the Fair qualifies. Jon Roland of Maryland, Presidential Award Winner for Math and Science Teaching, tells it this way: children find nothing more interesting than bodily functions, junk food, and fairs. So Sammy's Day at the Fair, covering all those topics, has the high-interest side nailed.  As for the low side the hi-lo equation, Sammy combines science with an entertaining story using a low reading-difficulty approach.

Jon and other award-winning teachers verify this claim. Natalie Rasmussen, Milken National Educator Award winner from Minnesota, says that Sammy’s phonetic glossary of biological terms is extremely well-done. She also says the book’s information is accurate and presented in a way that relates to all readers. 

Hi-lo? Not Adapted Classics books, but…

by Jerome Tiller
Hi-lo? Not Adapted Classics books, but…we did lower the reading difficulty of the classic stories we adapt by lightening their classic language load. And we added interesting illustrations to entice modern young readers to read our adapted classic stories, hoping to convert them across the board and over time into classic literature lovers. So you could say we had hi–lo (high interest-low reading level) on our minds to a certain degree when we set out to create and publish the Adapted Classics collection. 

Nevertheless, we know classic stories are not high interest reading material for most modern young readers. And we only lightly modify the high-level, outstanding prose in the classic stories that we adapt.  

The classic literature debate rages - let us illustrate

by Jerome Tiller
 A 2016 conducted by the BBC asked people to name the books that every child should read. Apparently, the results were not surprising. They included a large number of books considered 'classic'. However, Diana Gerald, the CEO of “Book Trust”, the largest reading charity in Great Britain, did weigh-in with a somewhat surprising opinion regarding the results of the poll. Her opinion included the suggestion that adults should encourage children to read modern books. She believes they are just as brilliant as classic literature. Furthermore, she believes they are more pertinent to the lives of children and written in language that resonates with them.

Three Stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne

by Jerome Tiller
Three Stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne is the subtitle for Hawthorne Illustrated. However, no real need for a subtitle since the main title, Hawthorne Illustrated, unlike our upcoming Poe Illustrated, stands unique in the book publishing world. And to demonstrate that, if you were to search the Internet for Hawthorne illustrated, you will find our book prominently displayed at the top of the first page of results for that inquiry. Hooray, as far as that goes.

Although Hawthorne Illustrated is free from titling competition, we oddly consider this unfortunate. Some publisher should have created an Illustrated Hawthorne book long before ours. As a short story writer, Nathaniel Hawthorne equals Edgar Allan Poe, but for some reason he’s not nearly as popular.

A Classic Color Conundrum—Creation in Black & White

by Jerome Tiller
A classic color conundum – creation in black and white as depicted in Mark Twain's The Diaries of Eve and Adam – is forcing the color debate upon us. This particular Adapted Classics book raises the question whether the natural beauty of creation can be properly represented with black and white illustrations. 

No, said a panel of judges in a contest we entered for best illustrated book of 2018. You can't expect a reader to use his or her mind's eye to add color to pen and ink illustrations of creation scenes, even if they are described in colorful prose by Mr. Mark Twain. They thought anybody, especially a book publisher, would know that.

Point well-taken and insult endured, even though Mr. Mark Twain...

Illustrated Classic Literature, Without Hue, is Natural

by Jerome Tiller
Illustrated classic literature, without hue, is natural. Yet I have heard fifty complaints about the hue-less illustrations in our adapted classics collection of illustrated literature for middle school readers. Modern youth demand colorful images, so why do we insist on peddling books with black and white, i.e.; pen and ink illustrations?

Color is nice. We live in a world of color, and I'm glad that we do. But when we first set out to adapt classic stories for illustration, we immediately decided to illustrate the stories without color. That's because, had these stories been illustrated when written many decades ago, artists would have almost certainly used pen and ink. Also, to be honest, our budget didn't allow for printing books in...

Hawthorne’s Illustrated Literature Not So Popular

by Jerome Tiller
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s illustrated classic literature is not so popular, but why not so much? Doesn’t he write perfectly poetical english prose? Why yes he does! And doesn’t he write scenes and characters that make surreal imagery flash to the mind and flow from the pen of master illustrator Marc Johnson-Pencook? Yes indeed—he does that too! 

Middle-school readers should check out Hawthorne's illustrated classic literature by viewing samples of his stories at Amazon and Apple Books, then plug him to middle school teachers who may have temporarily forgotten who Nathaniel Hawthorne is. He is truly great. And Marc Johnson-Pencook? He’s great too!

Nathaniel Hawthorne - Illustrated Literature

Mark Twain's Carnival of Crime Exaggeration (Redux)

by Jerome Tiller
A carnival of Mark Twain exaggerations is on full display in one of our Adapted Classics stories, “The Facts Concerning the Recent Carnival of Crime in Connecticut”. You can now find digital versions of this irreverent tale at both Apple Books and Amazon. If you are reluctant to spend a coupla bucks to test your tolerance or taste for Twain's irreverence, both sites offer a preview of the book before you make an investment. 

This story would be a useful tool for showing middle school students how exaggeration works as humor. It would also be useful in a lesson that contrasts the positive and negative effects of exaggeration. Exaggeration can be used to make people laugh as long the audience is...

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


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...