Classic Tie-Ins

Cindy: I’m reading a classic. Don’t faint.

You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings.

No, that quote is not about me reading a classic, although it could be. It’s the opening of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Last fall we read and blogged Kenneth Oppel’s This Dark Endeavor and I failed to fess up to not having ever read Frankenstein. But I haven’t. While I wait until August for Oppel’s sequel Such Wicked Intent (Simon & Schuster, Aug. 2012) I’m going to pass the time by getting caught up on the original. While I work on that, I have a few classic questions for our Bookends readers:

  • What’s the last classic that you read?
  • Has a children’s or teen title sent you scrambling to refresh yourself on the original? Libba Bray’s Printz winner Going Bovine or Francisco X. Stork’s Last Summer of the Death Warriors both based on Don Quixote perhaps?
  • What classic is most prominent on your “shelf of shame?” (Books you feel you SHOULD have read but haven’t.)
  • Do you include classics in your booktalks or readers advisory with teens?

Answer one, or answer all. I look forward to reading your responses, but meanwhile, I need to go see what Victor is up to…

Lynn: The school systems I attended loved the classics and I was hustled through a lot of them in my youth.  The sad fact that my teen years preceded much YA literature meant that I read mostly adult books as a teen and that included many classics.  My trouble is that after all these years the details are often hazy!  I’m pretty sure I read only a few chapters of Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, in fact I think I avoided Wharton completely but so far I’m not aware of any YA book that will force me back to that!  I remember not liking Dickens much as a child, mostly because we read many of the books in class, taking turns (GROAN) and dissected them to death.  (As an adult I’ve come back to Dickens with a whole heart.)  I did booktalk the classics, especially in the days when I had an 8th-9th grade building.

I love that we have teen books connecting to the classics.  I think it does connect kids to our cultural foundations and I’ve watched many teens be inspired to read the classic texts.  The fact that many of them are available either free or very inexpensively on ebook format is a plus.

I have two new books in my to-read stack that have classical roots and I can’t wait to start them!  The Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin (Harper/Greenwillow May 2012) is set in a city that is cross between New Orleans and turn-of-the-century Paris and where the fashionable mask their faces and

bare their arms to prove they don’t carry the contagion.  The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll & Mademaoiselle Odile by James Reese (Roaring Brook April 2012) features a young girl and her gravely ill brother who come to Paris and meet Dr. Jekyll.  He offers a cure…but at what price?

So what about you, readers?  Bare your reading souls!

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

12 Comments on "Classic Tie-Ins"

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  1. brittanykwilson@gmail.com' Brittany says:

    Like Lynn, my “early” reading years were before a lot of great YA lit, so I read a lot of adult books. I read “Robinson Crusoe” in the 5th grade but I honestly don’t remember much about it! I also had a whole series of abridged classics (“Tale of Two Cities”, “Oliver Twist”, and “Great Expectations” come to mind, but there were more). You also can’t get more classic than the original Grimm and Anderson fairy tales, which I read ALL the time.

    When “Pride, Prejudice and Zombies” came out, I started to read the original but didn’t make it very far. My Kindle is chock full of the classics that I need to get down and read.

    Do we consider ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ a classic yet? I have a beautiful leather bound/gilt edge copy that makes it *look* like a classic. If we do, it’s definitely one of my favorites!

    • Brittany – I think Hitchhiker’s Guide qualifies as a classic for sure 😉 I also go back to the Grimm tales frequently. This year’s wonderful Breadcrumbs sent me scurrying to my old Book House books so I could refresh on the details of the original.

  2. I’ve just started a classic tie-in challenge this year, since I love finding a new book that kindles a love for an old one. I hadn’t heard about that new Dr. Jekyll one, so thanks for the heads up!

    I’ve noticed a preponderance of Jane Eyre retellings recently. Maybe there were always a lot, but it seems like many are just coming out.

  3. HintelmannL@mcvts.net' Lindsey H. says:

    I just finished Clockwork Prince and Cassandra Clare mentions A Tale of Two Cities through out the book. I have now added it to my pile of must reads.

  4. Kellyhager1234@comcast.net' Kelly says:

    Of Mice and Men was all over The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner. I loved TPoG so much that I ended up reading Of Mice and Men.

  5. squinn@pentwater.k12.mi.us' Stephanie says:

    The last classic I read was either House of Mirth or Awakening of which I love both.
    I feel most guilty about Anna Karenina. I have my grandmother’s copy and enjoy just holding it and thinking of her. But when I try to open it up and fall into it, I see her cheat notes to keep track of who is who. I sigh and put it back on the shelf. I just do not have the fortitude to read a book right now that involves taking notes.

  6. I am really enjoying the comments…keep them coming! I have Kate Chopin’s The Awakening on my Kindle to re-read soon. And, Stephanie, I have a gorgeous 2-volume embossed edition of Anna Karenina with color plates at the top of my shelf of shame as well. I bought it at a library book sale ten years ago and it still is unread. I recently vowed to read it this coming summer. But first, Frankenstein.–Cindy

  7. couillac@gmail.com' Chelsea C says:

    Both Jane by April Lindner and Mister Creecher by Chris Priestly sent me back to the originals (Jane Eyre and Frankenstein), two of my all-time favorites. I was so impressed with the way in which Lidner created a credible contemporary plot and a romance that was much more authentic and less icky than I thought it would be. Priestly’s take on Frankenstein reminded me so much of what I love about the original, and even nudged me in the direction of Dickens (see: wall of shame, below).

    I am most ashamed of never having read any Dickens other than A Christmas Carol. In my defense, I LOVE A Christmas Carol, but how I managed to graduate with an English Lit degree without reading Dickens is a mystery to me. I will be adding his complete works to my Kindle momentarily as penance. I also have had Fahrenheit 451 on my to-read shelf for years. I love Bradbury but have never gotten around to it – and I’m a librarian! So embarassed…:-)

  8. andykaiser@gmail.com' Andy Kaiser says:

    Treasure Island.

    Not only is it the grandpappy of every pirate tale, it doesn’t suffer from “classic-induced difficulty” – you don’t have to struggle to read or appreciate it. It’s an excellent adventure story. Great characters, great concept, and it’s difficult to resist anything with a pirate theme.

    I first read it over and over as a kid, and only recently realized that the book I’d owned was an abridged version. I now have the full version for my Kindle (free!), and am going through it again:

    http://www.amazon.com/Treasure-Island-ebook/dp/B000JML7EC

    Compared to my abridged version, the full story is a little more grim, and there is no polite obfuscation of the realities of the story – drunkenness and alcoholism and violence are central at first, and it’s clear just how nasty and sometimes evil it is to be a pirate.

    All in all, a wonderfully inventive, imaginative and exciting book. Thanks, Robert Louis Stevenson!

    Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum,

    Andy

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