The Same, But Different (Abridged vs Classic vs Modern Literature)

imagesSeveral years ago, when we first started educating Primo and Secondo at home, we set out to fill our library with the classics that we remembered, as well as a few we never got around to reading ourselves (gasp :-0). In some cases we bought abridged or adaptations of the classics that the kids could read for themselves in the early grades. For others we bought the original texts for either storytime or for the boys to read at a later date.

Fairly quickly it became obvious that Primo, while plowing through abridged classics like Frankenstein, or Huckleberry Finn, wanted something different.

Between the ages of 8 and 11 he consumed entire series like Harry Potter, The Inheritance CycleThe Mysterious Benedict Society,  The Secret SeriesPercy Jackson and The Olympians, and The Spiderwick Chronicles among others. Yet, while all of this reading is “good”, GranolaGirl and I still believe there is much to learn from the classics: etymology, history, culture and political norms of the times, for example.

KidnappedAbridgedSo, for the moment, Primo’s current reading assignment is Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson. However, something interesting turned up, which has become an opportunity in our home education adventure to enhance our learning.

The copy we had in the library was a Great Illustrated Classic adapted by Deborah Kestal. We figured this version would be a good start as the story line is boiled down to basic plot elements presented in modern “American” English.

UnknownNine chapters in, Primo loathed it.

As such it became a struggle to get him to continue reading the book. Digging deeper into this resistance Primo revealed that he wanted to read the original. Looking at this adaptation a little more closely it became more obvious what there is to dislike. The story has been “flattened” to the point that all of the colors, sounds and smells you could imagine have been removed. In an effort to shorten the story (and modernize the language) most, if not all, of the character of the original has been lost.

KidnappedClassicAnd this is the essence of the lesson we learned: just like the Cliff’s Notes of our college days, some adaptations can rob the reader of the real adventure. Without another word we set off for the bookstore to purchase a Bantam Classic version.

While the language is challenging, five chapters into the book Primo has declared the story “interesting,” which is an improvement over his previous reaction and presents a grand opportunity.

Egad! I’ve asked Primo to read both books, keeping notes on what is different, as well as what he likes and dislikes about each. This is a technique similar to the book/movie comparison we discussed in A Tale of Two Children: Readiness for Readin’, ‘ritin’, and ‘rithmetic.

The results of this exercise will be posted in Kids’ Book Reviews when he is complete.

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  1. Pingback: Kidnapped! (Reading and Writing Tales of Woe) RocketRedNeck

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