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.


Is Hop-Frog by Edgar Allan Poe too much for kids?

by Jerome Tiller
Leave it to Edgar Allan Poe to stir up a controversy. Some adult readers of Hop-Frog believe the story is unsuitable for our main target audience, middle-school readers. No doubt, Hop-Frog is a disturbing tale. It is unlike all the other books in the Adapted Classics collection to date, all of which contain at least an ample amount of humor (and that includes  Edgar Allan Poe’s Thou Art the Man). Nothing Funny about Hop-Frog There is nothing funny about Hop-Frog. It is a story about maltreatment and revenge. And true to Poe’s typical story-telling mode, the climax of the story is particularly disturbing. But also typically, it is good. Fast-paced and gripping, the story includes the issues of injustice, bullying, and revenge....