Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Great Expectations Classic Starts - #3 for Children's Day

Great Expectations (Classic Starts) by Charles Dickens
Retold by Deanna McFadden
Illustrated by Eric Freeberg
Copyright 2010 - Sterling Children's Books
Ages 9-12
152 pages

Classic Starts is a line of classic stories, retold and illustrated for youngsters. Retellings have been done and redone, over the years. This is the first time I've managed to read a retelling of Great Expectations.

I read the original Great Expectations by Charles Dickens two or three years ago and loved it. Does this retelling live up to the beauty of Dickens' writing? I'd say not even close. It lacks the wit and humor, the depth of character development and, of course, some of the storyline had to go. But, I like retellings of classics for two reasons:

1. They serve as an excellent introduction, especially to the lengthier and/or dense classics that some youngsters aren't ready to wade through.
2. Even adults can be intimidated by classics and reading a children's version before tackling the original can be surprisingly helpful. I've read children's versions of a couple of Shakespeare's works and then returned to the original, when reading outside of a classroom setting. I think sometimes they're a better option than Cliff's notes.

What I missed most in this book was the character development of Joe Gargery. Joe was my favorite character because he had such a big heart and I particularly missed my favorite line, "She were a fine figure of a woman." Joe's devotion and admiration for his wife put her character into perspective and was also touching and beautiful.

I like Dickens' flowery language but for younger readers, I'm sure Victorian prose can be really difficult to understand. At times, I found some of Dickens' sentences twisty and garbled. This book cuts through the flowers and goes straight to the dirt, making the storyline clear.

Story: 3.5/5 - Nicely told, but lacking the original's wit, humor, flowery language and character development.

Illustrations: 4/5 - Very nice, detailed pencil illustrations add flair to the book.

This is #3 for Children's Day. Still more to come!

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