Great Illustrated Classics

This is a praise for a series of books we have been collecting over the years from Half-Price Books (where, if found, are only $1) and Michaels Crafts Store ($3). They are called ‘Great Illustrated Classics’ and I just love them! They are these wonderfully adapted versions of literature classics composed for younger readers whose attention span, reading comprehension, and vocabulary aren’t quite ready for the originals. Yet they are more than just a synopsis or summary, because the adaptions all do an excellent job of maintaining a writing style and language that remains very to true to the classic itself. When reading these adaptations, one will finish the book having acquired a very comprehensive re-telling of the story and will feel that they have been able to form detailed ideas of what the traits and personalities of the characters must have been like. I am always very impressed!

Halle and I have read through a few of these together and then she has, on her own accord, read through several more of the ones we own. Heidi, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Cinderella and Other Stories, The Prince and the Pauper, The Wizard of Oz (to name a few…), I am so pleased when I discover that she has picked up yet another one and read through it. I am most certain she has read ‘The Little Mermaid’ by Hans Christian Andersen at least 20 times (possibly more!) as not a week goes by without my observance of her in her bedroom delighting herself in that story.

Here are just a few of the paragraphs from that particular version to show how it keeps inline with the way the author has written the story.
The Little Mermaid was curious to see her beauty; and she was forced to acknowledge that she had never on earth beheld more noble features. The skin of the Princess was so fair and delicate and from behind her dark lashes smiled a pair of deep-brown eyes.
“It is herself!” exclaimed the Prince, on beholding her. “Thou are she who saved my life when I lay senseless on the shore!
“Oh, now I am more than happy!” said he to his little foundling. “That which I never hoped to see fulfilled has happened. Thou wilt rejoice at my happiness; for thou lovest me more than all who surround me.”
Then the Little Mermaid kissed his hand in her sorrow, and she thought her heart would break; for the dawn of his marriage day was to bring her unavoidable death.

Now if you have ever listened to Halle talk or give an account to something, you can see just how much her vocabulary and choice of words is affected by what she reads! I just love how exposing kids to reading and great literature at early ages really can influence, in very positive ways, the manner in which they can communicate and express themselves!! I also like that these books include many black and white illustrations through out the pages; it provides even more time for the girls to be absorbing themselves in the stories as they get to enjoy spending time coloring in the pictures.

But in addition to being of profit to younger readers before they face these classics in their older years, they are also of great benefit to those older readers who were exposed very little to these when they were younger; those who have much to improve upon on in their reading comprehension when it comes to these great works of literature (like me!) My inner-city schooling definitely left me lacking a proper education and apart from text-books, I completed high school having read next to nothing. Also, having a math major for my college degree did not help to fill in those literature gaps. So now I am trying to make up for lost time and make my way through the books I should have already covered as a student. I know I have a lot to read, but if I can just complete 5 or 6 a year, I will at least be making some sort of progress. A couple of weeks ago, I decided to start listening to ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ (btw, listening to books on audio is a great way I have found to work in ‘reading’ time to a schedule that doesn’t allow much room for extra sit-down book time. I can listen when running, when in the car, when cleaning, cooking meals – you get the idea…) Anyways, once into the story, I very quickly became lost in the plot and was so confused with all the French names and references. Was Pharoan a person on the ship or was it the ship? Marseilles, Morrel, and Mercedes – wait who is the maiden and who is the Monsieur and which one was the name of the city? Is Danglars the one with the questionable character or is it Dantes??? I just couldn’t follow along and keep it all straight! I tried to re-listen to chapter 1 a couple of times, yet I was still left uncertain of what was going on. But then…. I remembered there was a ‘Great Illustrated Classics’ version of this book! And after reading through that version (in less than 45 minutes), it was all so clear! And by exposing myself with that little condensed story, I felt ready and excited to tackle the full (48 hour original) even more!

So all that to say, if you are a parent who wants to get your children interested in classics at an early age, start trying to acquire these books! You wont be disappointed. And if you are an adult who needs help understanding them, they will be a great aid to you as well (as they are to me!)

But know that these versions are just one of many wonderful avenues that will expose younger readers to the originals they will most likely be reading, in their entirety, in the years to come. My friend Angela called my attention to another home-schooler’s post on introducing kids to Shakespeare (check it out here: Shakespeare Can Be Fun!) This mother reconfirms my convictions for lots of literature for kiddos at early ages when she says this, “The idea here is to introduce young kids to the storylines of these books, to the characters, the twists and turns, and some of the details. Then, when they’re older and pick up the real thing, they already have the framework cemented in their memory and can then concentrate on the language, the subplots, and the intricacies of the writing itself. I take the same approach to history: teach them everything, even the complicated things, early on. Only make it fun, colorful, memorable. Then later, when they have to delve more deeply into things, they don’t have to get mired in the basics. This approach is one that just works for me and my kids.

Happy reading!

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