Adapted Classics: The Humor of Twain, Poe, and Hawthorne

by Jerome Tiller

Want to grab and hold the attention of middle school students in English class? Why not use Adapted Classics illustrated stories to compare and contrast the humor of Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, and Nathaniel Hawthorne? Twain Illustrated, Poe Illustrated, and Hawthorne Illustrated, are all available from Follett School Solutions in Follettbound editions, made to last forever, as classics merit, even when put into the hands of middle school students! And that’s a great start.
But more important, it’s hard to imagine a more engaging topic for middle school students than humor or a better approach to introduce them to classic literature.A classroom discussion about humor would be educational fun for all, students and teachers alike, since humor has many forms that are worth learning and laughing about. It’s a difficult subject, but one worth exploring.

Twain Illustrated: Twain Presumes Too Much

by Jerome Tiller

Twain illustrated contains one reborn story—Emerson, Holmes, and Longfellow—largely requiring rebirth because even the great Mark Twain could presume too much. The story is my adaptation of a speech he delivered in 1877 at a Boston banquet honoring esteemed American poet John Greenleaf Whittier. Twain presumed his audience was in a playful spirit that night as he prepared to deliver a speech that poked fun at literary giants Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Either the audience was not feeling playful, or maybe everyone was reluctant to laugh because all three poets were seated right there at the head table with Whittier. For neither the poets nor anyone else in the audience laughed, not even once, during the entire story. Master humorist Mark Twain had come to totally expect laughter, and lots of it, when he told a funny story. He claims he never fully recovered from the humiliation he felt that night at the banquet. View and/or download a FREE pdf version of Twain Illustrated  here!
Big News! The Midwest Publishers Association (MIPA) has named Twain Illustrated finalist for Best Short Story Anthology of 2022!.

Twain’s Carnival of Exaggerations

by Jerome Tiller
In Twain Illustrated, I adapt three stories by Mark Twain by adding forty-three, contemporary-classic illustrations by Marc Johnson-Pencook. Included in this collection is the wildly hilarious The Facts Concerning the Recent Carnival of Crime in Connecticut. Mark Twain’s wit usually made people snicker or chuckle, but Twain's carnival of exaggerations more often made them laugh. Twain used and blended many comic forms, including witty jokes, puns, ludicrous impressions, irony, sarcasm, satire, and understatement. But very often he relied upon exaggeration to great comic effect. Like many humorists before him, Twain knew that too much of anything, received playfully, will make people laugh. So Twain filled this story with a carnival of exaggeration to hilarious effect. It's a must-read, must-see story in Twain Illustrated, as Marc Johnson-Pencook is able to keep pace with Twain's exaggerations every scene of the way. 
View and/or download a FREE pdf version of Twain Illustrated  here!

Big News! The Midwest Publishers Association (MIPA) has named Twain Illustrated finalist for Best Short Story Anthology of 2022!.

Disguising Point-of-View

by Jerome Tiller

   Disguising point-of-view in Edgar Allan Poe’s Thou Art the Man didn’t take or mean much. As discussed in two previous posts, I eliminated the opening paragraph to give the story a faster start. But unfortunately, in doing so I also eliminated evidence that a first-person narrator was telling Poe’s story. No worry though, Edgar—I quickly got back to the narration that you intended.

The first-person opening of Thou Art the Man

by Jerome Tiller
The first person opening of Edgar Allan Poe’s Thou Art the Man had to go, so I went ahead and cut it. I promised an excuse for this in our last blog. Here you have it: I did it for our audience. I adapt classic short stories, primarily for modern, middle school readers, by adding illustrations. But I also slightly modify the narratives. I do both for the sake of the audience, especially for the youngest segment of our readers. And I do some of it because both they and I are modern.

Edgar Allan Poe’s Point of View

by Jerome Tiller
Edgar Allan Poe’s point of view is predictable. He almost always uses a first-person narrator to tell his stories. However, only one of the three stories we collected for Poe Illustrated uses the first-person point-of view in the way Poe typically did. But what does that matter? Master story-teller that he was, Poe always knew exactly what he was doing to create the effect he desired. And that’s one reason he will always remain relevant.

Three (Classic) Stories by Edgar Allan Poe

by Jerome Tiller
Three Stories by Edgar Allan Poe is the subtitle for Poe Illustrated, the latest addition to our Adapted Classics collection. I feel I need to mention the subtitle of our Poe Illustrated since there are other Poe Illustrated books out there. I believe all of them are graphic stories, identical to graphic novels in structure. If so, that sets them apart from all the stories we publish in our Adapted Classics collection.

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...