Allison's Book Bag

Adapting a Classic, Guest Post by Jerome Tiller

Posted on: August 18, 2014

A father-son collaboration, ArtWrite Productions traces its origins to a single book, called “Sammy’s Day at the Fair,” which was created for a fifth-grade science fair. Wanting to present the functions and processes of the digestive system in a fun and memorable way, Paul Tiller decided to incorporate the factual content into an illustrated story. Paul’s teacher thought his report was innovative. In fact, she enjoyed it so much that she suggested that it be published! In response, Paul’s father, Jerome, reworked the text and expanded the scope of the book to include a pitch for healthy living. Pre-publication galleys garnered great reviews from award-winning teachers across the nation. In July 2004, their book was published and ArtWrite Productions was born.

An imprint of ArtWrite Productions, Adapted Classics was founded on the belief that many classic stories would attract today’s youth if text was specifically tailored to them and if illustrations were added. The company seeks to honor classic authors by creating faithful adaptations of their stories to share with a new generation of readers. I asked Jerome Tiller if he would talk about the process of adapting a class, and what follows is his response. Over the next two days, I’ll review the company’s first offering, “Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment,” as well as post a copy of the original version along with other supplements. Save the dates: August 19-20!

Adapting a Classic
by Jerome Tiller


Adapted Classics aims to introduce modern, young readers to classic stories. There are a few reasons we do this. First, with slightly altered language and professional illustrations, certain adult classic stories stand a good chance of entertaining and enlightening many modern middle-grade readers. The stories and prose can be challenging, but modern youth are up to it and can profit from the advanced reading experience. Secondly, classic stories are so regarded because they have a timeless quality – often because moral truths are imbedded within the stories, but also because they are very well told. Reading such stories is a past-time that cannot be matched. Finally, even though our first offering, “Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” is often read and discussed in classrooms, most upcoming releases will be relatively obscure stories written by famous authors – hidden gems that deserve to be exposed to young and old readers alike.

JeromePaulTillerSelecting stories for adaptation is the first challenge we face at Adapted Classics. There are many classic stories to choose from, but not many have strong visual qualities that facilitate illustration. From among those that do, we like stories that move at a sprightly pace and strongly prefer stories that contain at least some humor. Once we select a story, we choose which scenes to illustrate then do whatever is necessary to make space for the illustrations. Our goal is to present illustrations alongside or immediately following the scenes that we illustrate.

The most difficult task in adapting stories for illustration involves guilt; we do not like tampering with stories written by great authors. We know we can’t improve the stories, so we hate messing with the word choices, word ordering, and paragraph breaks made long ago by writers we hold in the highest esteem. Nevertheless, we must mess to some degree with all the stories we choose to adapt. We make some language substitutions and modifications with modern youth in mind, we slightly censor when seemingly appropriate, we alter some story openings to get them off to a faster start, and we make some structural changes to all the stories to accommodate the illustrations.

Today’s information and entertainment sources can lessen the interest of youth in reading. To the extent that they choose other options and read less, young people risk losing language and contemplative skills acquired and developed by those of previous generations. Adapted Classics aims to supplement modern sources of information and entertainment by offering young readers well-told, content-rich stories that carry artistic and contemplative value across the ages. By so doing, we hope to help youth develop and maintain a life-long, rewarding interest in reading.

Our next offering slated to be released before the end of 2014 will be “Edgar Allan Poe’s Thou Art the Man”. Please watch for it.

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