Classic Remarks is a weekly meme hosted by Briana and Krysta @ Pages Unbound. Every Friday, a new question about classic literature is posed each week. Participants and their readers engage in discussions “about canon formation, the ‘timelessness’ of literature, and modes of interpretation.” From what I see, the classics canon includes modern classics, like the Harry Potter series.
What do you think of adapting classics for younger readers?
I loved reading adapted classics in elementary school. My mom used to buy the boxed sets of classics illustrated for young readers, and I loved them. I distinctly remember reading Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of the Baskervilles, Oliver Twist, and Anne of Green Gables in abridged formats for young readers. I loved them! Some of them were small enough for my tiny hands to hold. I am for adapting classics for younger readers, but adapting or abridging classics for young readers needs to be done with care.
Along with improving literacy in younger readers, I believe another mission is to make reading fun. Many traditional classics can be very dull or time-consuming for the modern adult reader, which I would multiply tenfold for a younger reader. Reading should be fun when you are young. Whether or not the classic is required reading, I think you should be honest about it being adapted or abridged.
When nothing on the book says that it has been abridged or otherwise indicates that it has been altered, I feel that I have been lied to. This lie by omission should be avoided in adapted classics. This smacks of my problem with many adaptations of classics for adult readers and some Disney movies. I watch Twitches (2005) several times a year, yet I have never seen it state in the credits or anywhere else in the movie that is based on H.B. Gilmour and Randi Reisfeld’s series. If it was written somewhere, I did not see it. Another example: I have seen The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas, say unabridged on a copy that is about 600 pages long and the same on a copy that is over 1,000 pages. The latter copy is more complete. The former copy has been shortened because Dumas was paid by the word, which means that some believe that the real story is in the shorter version. Ignoring the problem of translation, how exactly could both be unabridged?
Like book-to-movie adaptations, the most important thing in adapting a classic book for young readers is to do the original text justice. The story, characters and themes need to be maintained. Ideally it should have a similar power of affecting the reader, but that is my opinion. It’s possible to create a bad adaptation. An example of a classic adaptation that went too far and did not do the novel justice is the Cozy Classics: War and Peace, by Jack and Holman Wang. The first three pages say: “Soldier,” “Friends,” and “Girl.” I didn’t think it was possible to cut down a novel like War and Peace to so few words, and it still fails to explain what happens.
Graphic novel adaptations are a mystery to me because I have not read them, but I believe they can do a lot of good. Many graphic novels and comic books are targeted at younger readers. They give similar visual, like a movie. As long as they do the original work justice, I think adapting the classic into this medium works well. It makes the story palatable.
Classic books should be adapted for younger readers when they aren’t already targeted at younger readers, and they should be adapted right. What do you think of adapting classics for young readers?