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 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. Consequently, Twain did not intentionally slight Eve in any way, and definitely not as a gender stereotype, when he developed her character.

View/download free pdf version of the Diaries of Eve & Adam (scaled for mobile & ipad devices)

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...

Revealing Illustrated Literature - Mark Twain's The Diaries of Eve and Adam

by Jerome Tiller
Eve and Apple ArtWrite Productions will publish "Mark Twain's The Diaries of Eve and Adam" on June 30, 2017. It will be the sixth book in our Adapted Classics collection of illustrated literature. We are happy to announce this will be the first time we publish an Adapted Classics book in both hardcover and softcover. Near the end of his life, Mark Twain wrote a series of six stories commonly known as the ‘Adamic Diaries’. Four of the stories poke fun at Christianity and are dark in tone. These stories were not published until after Twain died in 1910. Two of the six stories in the series were published as illustrated books while Twain lived—Extracts from Adam’s Diary...

Dr. Heidegger's Experiment - Topics For Teachers to Explore

by Jerome Tiller

As indicated in our last post, this marks our first blog that suggests topics teachers might want to explore in classroom discussions involving stories in the Adapted Classics collection. The first book we published in the collection is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment, and there are lots of topics teachers might want to explore in this one.

You might ask why Dr. Heidegger conducted the experiment. What did he hope to find out? The subjects in the experiment might trigger other questions. All of them were old friends of the doctor, so we know Dr. Heidegger knew them and and that he was probably also aware of their rather ignoble pasts. Were they useful subjects for what he hoped to learn from...

Fiction and Classroom Discussions

by Jerome Tiller
Some of the best classroom discussions led by teachers in my early school years involved literary works, usually fiction. Teachers found fiction to be especially fertile ground for classroom discussions because no student could ever truly be right or wrong. Students knew they were entitled to their own opinions about themes, characterization, motives, etc. Everybody had their own interpretation about the stories, and nobody would tell them that theirs were wrong. Classroom discussions about fiction often got students who rarely spoke-up in class to offer their opinions. Students were safe with fiction. They couldn’t be wrong.

We select, adapt, and design stories for the Adapted Classic collection with classroom discussions in mind. Even the illustrations by Mark Johnson-Pencook, though primarily attention...

Fiction can enlighten while it entertains

by Jerome Tiller
In our last post, shade was thrown on the idea that fiction can enlighten a reader. The post also contains the suggestion that reading to be informed is worthwhile while reading fiction merely entertains -  and that it doesn't do such a very good job of that compared to numerous alternatives.

Setting aside the opinion that reading fiction is an inferior way to entertain oneself, let’s deal with the issue of enlightenment. First of all, we probably need to clear up what might be some confusion in terminology. Knowledge and enlightenment are not synonymous. Insofar as information contains real (not fake) facts, acquiring and storing information adds to one's knowledge. Enlightenment is the result of 'getting it' - the 'it'usually being understanding that...

Illustrations Enhance the Appeal of Classic Stories

by Jerome Tiller
The idea was that we would add illustrations to classic stories to enhance their appeal. Middle-grade readers would see the books on a library or classroom shelf, fan the pages, see the vivid, often humorous illustrations, and give the old stories a try. The stylish prose in finely crafted stories by master authors would then captivate middle-grade readers. They would attain a greater interest  in the language of their lives - that which they hear and speak and write. And literature! Our thin, little books with illustrations might be the first plunge many middle-grade readers take into the deep world of literature. The books might even serve to spur life-long habits of reading fiction for pleasure and enlightenment in some middle-grade readers who give...

Arthur Rackham v. Marc Johnson-Pencook

by Jerome Tiller
Arthur Rackham (September 19. 1867 – September 6, 1939) was one of the pre-eminent illustrators in what is known as “The Golden Age of Illustration”. This age was primarily a British phenomena. It lasted about 30 years, roughly from 1890 until 1920. Arthur Rackham’s art work, at first in pen and ink only but soon in color as well, graced many books for children from 1893 right up until his death in 1939. In the “Tales of Mystery and Imagination”, the Poe collection referenced in our February 1st blog, he contributed 40 illustrations, 12 in color and 28 in pen and ink.

Arthur Rackham inspired Marc Johnson-Pencook and influenced his development as a major talent in the modern age of illustration. Compare the...

Is Edgar Allan Poe's Hop-Frog safe for kids?

by Jerome Tiller
Is Hop-Frog by Edgar Allan Poe safe for kids? One of the factors that persuaded us to include Hop-Frog in the Adapted Classics collection was its inclusion in “Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination”. George G Harrap & Co. Ltd  published that volume of illustrated, unadapted Poe stories in 1935. The Harrap Company specialized in publishing educational books, but they also published many illustrated books for children.

So we don't think we presumed too much when we decided to publish our version of Edgar Allan Poe's Hop-Frog. After all, a noted major publisher found Hop-Frog and other Poe tales safe for children in 1935. That would mean Poe's tales must also be safe reading for middle-school readers in the modern age.