There’s an Idea: Short Stories Illustrated
Sometimes a company will implement an idea that makes me want to stand up, take notice, and perhaps dance a restrained ladylike jig. Such was my reaction to The Creative Company’s decision to produce small books of adult short stories. The kinds of things kids are assigned to read in school.
Thus far, I’ve seen four of the books in person. These include:
The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs
The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant
The Garden Party by Katherine Mansfield
The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell
Each book contains the story itself with various sections written in different colored fonts. Then there is a series of thoughts on the story, and finally a biography of the author.
One might argue the logic of making such stories into their own books. I mean, are they illustrated? Not excessively, though there are small illustrations included at key moments. So what is the advantage? Well, to be frank, these are ideal for reluctant readers who have been assigned such stories in school but need just a small extra added push to give ’em the impetus they need to follow through. The stories make slim volumes, and aren’t the least bit imposing. That said, you might worry that they look too much like picture books to lure in older readers. Yet the sophistication of the covers brings to mind remarkably slim coffee table books more than anything else.
Of course the covers are the initial lure. Artists employed include folks like Etienne Delessert, Roberto Innocenti, and Gary Kelly. Then you open the book up and a sentence or two is placed right on the first page to lure you in. These tend to be selected quotes from the books (ex: “Again, how curious, she seemed to be different from them all. To take scraps from their party. Would the poor woman really like that?”). They entice you, sometimes giving a hint of the author’s intent (“He wanted to show that fate ruled people’s lives, and that those who interfered with it did so to their sorrow.”). It’s all very clever.
Who is the readership for these books? Ostensibly middle school readers and kids in high school. Yet I could see a smart 10-year-old or even a curious college student picking one of these books up for a looksee. They’re classic tales, after all. A look at their catalog of other short stories yields titles they’ve already done (The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, The Lady, or the Tiger?, The Lottery, etc.) and future publications in the series like An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, The Rocking-Horse Winner, as well as a host of others.
So kudos to Creative Editions for coming up with an original way of catering to a kind of educational staple. These have been around for a couple of years, but I’ve only just now had a chance to take proper note. Now that I have, I’ll be trying to get a glimpse of more of the same.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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