REIMAGINED CLASSIC STORIES

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Edgar Allan Poe Humor for Middle School

by Jerome Tiller
Whether Edgar Allan Poe’s humor will suit middle school students is a matter for middle school students to decide. I would encourage middle school students to search for the humor in Poe’s stories. I think they will like his humor when they find it.

If middle school students were to analyze almost any Poe story, even his tales of terror, they would likely find some humor either simmering along the surface or inserted between the lines. A Poe humor search would make a good middle school homework assignment. Then a great classroom discussion likely would follow. I’d bet that discussion would be fun for students and teachers alike.

Edgar Allan Poe’s Thou Art the Man, a detective story on the surface, features...

Literature for Middle School Students

by Jerome Tiller
Whether classic literature belongs in middle school classrooms is an open question. Some teachers probably believe the best way to encourage middle school students to read is to assign them books they want to read, with a few obvious exceptions. If they want to read Captain Underpants, give it to them. If they want to read Harry Potter, give it to them (and by all means, give them all and every one of those fine books you can). But classic literature? Middle-school students don’t want to read stories about mostly adult characters living in the distant past. Why force the issue?

This opinion strongly persuades, at least to a point. Everyone wants middle school students to enjoy reading so that they...

Hawthorne Stories for Middle School

by Jerome Tiller
Bundling illustrated Hawthorne stories for middle school made for pleasant work. That’s because Nathaniel Hawthorne tells great stories that illustrate well. Quite frankly, we believe kids and their parents should read them. We think who wouldn’t like Hawthorne stories, especially when masterfully illustrated by Marc Johnson-Pencook? So, we went and did it. We published Hawthorne Illustrated, a volume of three Hawthorne on August 31, 2018. Middle school readers will happily soak up these stories if only parents would point, maybe nudge them, to drink from the great classics well.

Speaking of wells, Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment leads the combined three stories we are talking about. I suppose underground spring would be a more accurate term than well when describing the central feature of...

Illustrated Books Cover Middle-School Readers

by Jerome Tiller
Publishing experts maintain that covers sell books, including covers that sell illustrated books, but that wouldn’t matter to middle-school readers. They have no money to cover the cost of books. But even if they had money, would they go and spend it on a book anyway? So what does designed-to-sell-sell-sell book covers mean to them-them-them?

If parents were to bring home a book they bought for their middle-school reader after they went and spent their money on the book because the outside cover sold them on the inside content, lets hope their middle-school reader also likes the cover, and then maybe they might also enjoy the content, which they likely will if the imagery on the cover is literally incorporated into...

Eve and Adam Have Nothin’ to Offer

by Jerome Tiller
When it comes to female objectification, Eve and Adam have nothin’ to offer those who want to know why males objectify females. Mark Twain didn’t directly delve into that topic when he wrote his creation stories. But he did recreate the first heterosexual couple, and he did exaggerate certain gender-specific tendencies in each character. Readers in his day would have recognized these masculine and feminine tendencies as legitimate.

After all, Mark Twain was anything but stupid. He built his humor on the bedrock of exaggeration and understatement. And you know he understood how to use those comic devices! He knew it wouldn’t be funny for him to assign, and then exaggerate or understate, gender-related tendencies that didn’t mesh with what his...

Fans of Adam Redux - Reconsidering Eve

by Jerome Tiller
Fans of Adam might want us to reconsider Eve and apologize for our insults and the violent trip we suggested they take over a waterfall. In anticipation of their desires, we will.

Apologies first. Eve was concerned for reckless Adam’s safety. She pressured him to stop going over a waterfall. Like Eve, we are non-violent. So we retract our suggestion that Fans of Adam go over a waterfall in a barrel like Adam did. As far as we are concerned, jumping in a lake is usually safe, so we will stick with that suggestion. Go jump in the lake.

As for our insult, were you to object, you would probably be referring to the ‘big baby’ charge we leveled adaptedclassics.comst you. But if...

Midwest Book Review Recommends "Eve and Adam”

by Jerome Tiller
Midwest Book Review recommends “Mark Twain’s The Diaries of Eve and Adam”. You will find their review posted on the Literary Shelf in the October 2017 edition of their e-magazine. It is the first comment we have heard about our newly published book for middle-school readers. Thankfully, it’s a positive one. And we are thankful exactly six times over that Midwest Book Review likes all the books in our Adapted Classics collection of timeless stories for middle-school readers.

That someone finally commented on the book pleases us. However, the reviewer disappointed us by quoting Adam's downer observation about death as the example of Twain’s funny, positive story. The short excerpt the reviewer used does not reflect the tone of the story at...

Middle-Grade vs. Middle-School - A Difference in Terms

by Jerome Tiller
One might think, as I did, that ‘middle-grade’ means ‘middle-school’ and no difference exists between the terms. I discovered, only recently, that I was wrong. Book publishers define the middle-grade range as 8-12 years of age. They group one-third to one-half of the younger students in middle school (grades 6-8) with students in mid-to-late elementary school. Book publishers place the remaining group of older middle-school students with high schoolers in a category called ‘young-adult’. They define the young-adult age range as 13-18 years.

According to book trade companies that publish fiction, certain words and content topics define the two categories. Fiction books for ‘middle-grade’ readers shouldn’t contain profanity, graphic violence, or sexuality. All of this type of content would be allowable...

Fans of Adam - Mark Twain's The Diaries of Eve and Adam

by Jerome Tiller
Fans of Adam might dislike ArtWrite Productions, the publisher of the Adapted Classics book, “Mark Twain’s the Diaries of Eve and Adam”. The reason? The publisher decided to place Eve’s name before Adam’s in the title of the book. This upsets tradition, fans of Adam might say, and you do not upset tradition to appease women or to appeal to them for financial gain (women do buy more books than men, and men almost never buy books for their children).

Well, fans of Adam, do you want to know what lake you can jump into? How about the first lake you come upon? But do not drown, you big babies. Your womenfolk might miss you if they are anything like Eve,...

Eve Illustrated - Literature with Beautiful Curves

by Jerome Tiller
As suggested in “Mark Twain’s Diaries of Eve and Adam”, and as illustrated by Marc Johnson-Pencook, Eve has beautiful curves. She is lithe, slender, trim, rounded, shapely, nimble, and graceful. Adam looks like a derrick, or maybe architecture. Eve, standing on a rock, head tilted back, watching the flight of a bird in the sky, is beautiful. Adam resembles a reptile.

It’s no surprise that Twain made Eve more physically attractive than Adam. I suppose he could have written a completely farcical story about the first human creatures and made them much different than readers would expect. Instead, he stuck with one of his trademark approaches, humor by exaggeration, and poked fun at feminine and masculine stereotypes. I’m glad he did....

Middle School Students - Learning by Talking

by Jerome Tiller
When middle schools students discuss the meaning of literature under the direction and supervision of a teacher, they are learning by talking. Classroom discussions about the meaning of stories help middle school students develop new ideas, organize and clarify their thoughts, and express them verbally. Besides these lessons in mental and communication skills, classroom discussions about literature also help middle school students learn valuable life lessons. Quality literature can carry an abundance of such lessons.

The trouble is, most of the skills middle school students learn by talking about the meaning of literature cannot be quantified. Middle school students might develop their brains and learn life lessons when they talk about literature, but they merely internalize those benefits. No standardized test...

Illustrated Classic Literature for middle schoolers?

by Jerome Tiller
Can you imagine a parent rejecting the purchase or loan of a book of illustrated classic literature for their middle school reader because picture books are for little kids? You should be able to imagine this because it probably happens all the time. Major book publishers and booksellers have seen sales of illustrated books slump during the past couple of decades. They speculate parents are responsible for the decline in sales. They think parents point kids to chapter books early on because they want their kids to rapidly advance in school. And of course, eventually succeed as adults in a highly competitive world. Might these parents then reject illustrated literature and prefer chapter books without due consideration for content? So...

Nathaniel Hawthorne - A Serious Man and a Funny Guy

by Jerome Tiller
Did you know Nathaniel Hawthorne was both a serious man and a funny guy. Many people who think of him as nothing but a great moralist should read “Mr. Higginbotham’s Catastrophe”. Hawthorne told it in a light, humorous vein, and he didn’t use it to deliver a great moral message. But as for serious—well, this story is…seriously funny. And seriously sweet!

Unusual though this story is coming from Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, a contemporary of Hawthorne and a renowned literary critic, praised “Mr. Higginbotham’s Catastrophe”. He described it as “vividly original and dexterously managed”. Other critics have favorably compared Dominicus Pike, the story’s main character, to Ichabod Crane, the main character in Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. Both...

Mark Twain’s Eve and Adam - Gender Stereotypes?

by Jerome Tiller
When Mark Twain developed the characters Eve and Adam in his creation stories, did he rely upon and perpetuate gender stereotypes? Although most of the people who have read and reviewed “Eve’s Diary” like the story, some readers found fault with Twain’s portrayal of Eve, especially after she began taking an interest in Adam. Twain took on a daunting task when he decided to fictionalize the story of creation. He must have known his characterizations of Eve and Adam, the very first human creatures, would be seen. They would be seen as archetypes for all succeeding generations of both genders of humans. Confidants of Twain knew he wrote “Eve’s Diary” as a eulogy to his beloved wife Olivia; she died in 1904,...

Poe's Hop-Frog - Middle-School Lesson Plan

by Jerome Tiller
I imagine Edgar Allan Poe’s Hop-Frog would fit well in some middle-school lesson plan. I can only imagine, however. Today’s lesson plans are probably tied closely to education standards and achievement tests. I am not a teacher. I do not know enough about the teaching vocation to speak authoritatively about standards or testing. Still, if teachers have the flexibility to use literature to stir classroom discussion, 'Poe’s Hop-Frog' has much going for it as a vehicle for that.

I discussed objections to exposing middle-grade readers to 'Hop-Frog' in two earlier posts. To reiterate, just because Hop-Frog, a very sympathetic character, violently revenges maltreatment by his tormentors does not mean that violent revenge is justifiable. Whether revenge can ever be justified, however,...

Adapting Eve & Adam - Intentions and Principles

by Jerome Tiller
Issues regarding intentions and principles loomed while adapting “Mark Twain’s The Diaries of Eve and Adam”. I was concerned that Eve’s character could change if I added new material to combine two separate stories by Twain. But I gave myself leeway to add material because I had no intention to change Eve’s character. Heck, I would not intentionally change any aspect of any character created by Mark Twain. My sole motive in adding new material was to keep dialogue going between Eve and Adam from beginning to end. I tried to keep Eve’s character in line with Twain’s Eve by closely considering what Eve had to say in her diary before the fall, along with the few things she had to say...

Mark Twain’s Goal - Bringing Eve & Adam Together

by Jerome Tiller
Mark Twain wanted to bring Eve and Adam together, but his goal went unrealized until after his death. Twain wanted to unite his "creation stories" so Eve and Adam’s different perspectives on creation would stand in high contrast. As Twain said, “They score points adaptedclassics.comst each other — so, if not bound together, some of the points would not be perceived.” In 1931, 21 years after Mark Twain died, Harper finally brought the stories together by publishing a book titled “The Private Life of Adam and Eve”.

Mark Twain was a writer at ease with organizing and presenting his ideas. He rarely struggled to bundle into finished form all that his fertile mind imagined. But combining Eve and Adam’s different perspectives on...

Adapted Classics "Hop-Frog" rated ideal format for Middle School Readers

by Jerome Tiller
Midwest Book Review (MBR) thinks we adapted “Edgar Allan Poe’s Hop-Frog” into an ideal format for middle school readers. In their opinion. the lightly modified text and the striking black-and-white illustrations are two reasons why "Hop-Frog" is an excellent tool to introduce middle-school readers to the amazing world of classic literature.

We greatly value their opinion. Midwest Book Review is an on-line book review magazine well-respected in the book trade. They selectively review books by small publishers and independent authors. Small players in the book trade, such as ourselves, seek reviews from MBR since almost all review journals will only review books from large publishers.

MBR complimented our entire Adapted Classics collection. They also saluted our other adapted Poe classic, “Thou Art the...

Discreet Illustrated Literature for Adults (and Youth!)

by Jerome Tiller
Fully illustrated literature for adults is hard to find. Once it was common to see illustrations sprinkled within the pages of novels, but never much more than merely sprinkled. Except for graphic novels, it has always been hard to find fully illustrated literature for adults.

"I recognized that she was beautiful"

The two Mark Twain stories we have now combined to create our upcoming “Mark Twain’s The Diaries of Eve and Adam” were notable exceptions. “Extracts from Adam’s Diary”, published in 1904, and “Eve’s Diary”, published in 1906, were hardcover books intended primarily for adult readers. Full illustrations grace every other page in both books.

The illustrations in “Extracts from Adam’s Diary” had an abstract, hieroglyphic design. The artist,...

Promote Pleasure Reading in Young People

by Jerome Tiller
Studies by the U.S. Department of Education have shown the overall amount of pleasure reading by young people has steadily declined. There are many theories why this is so, including those that point to trade-offs and time constraints; young people abandon pleasure reading to focus instead on digital devices or to use what once had been free time to expend extra effort in meeting the regimented demands of an achievement culture.

Yet everyone knows that young people will seek and find fun wherever it can be found – it’s their natural instinct. Then what if they were  to find more fun in pleasure books at their reading level?  Like the fun they once found in the picture books of their...