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Friday, September 6, 2013

All Too Elementary?

In glancing over the shelves of my library, I note quite a few editions of the Canon "adapted for young readers."

For example, I have a "Great Illustrated Classics" edition and a "Treasury of Illustrated Classsics" edition of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Neither has all the stories. The former has three, the latter has five. One story they have in common is "The Adventure of the Speckled Band," and the differences are instructive.

The "Great Illustrated Classics" rendition by Malvina G. Vogel makes the startling alteration of telling the tale in the third person: "It was early in April in the year 1883 when  Sherlock Holmes and his assistant, Dr. John Watson, were sharing Holmes's bachelor apartment at 221B Baker Street that the good doctor awoke one morning . . . "

The "Treasury" version, adapted by Kathy Wilmore, begins more traditionally:

"I awoke one more morning to find Sherlock Holmes standing, fully dressed by the side of my bed. Usually, he was a late riser, but it was only 7:15. I blinked at him in surprise."

In a lavishly color-illustrated edition of the "The Speckled Band" as a separate book, adaptor David Eastman goes with a simpler first sentence: "Early one morning I awoke to find my friend, Sherlock Holmes, standing by my bed."

I also have two adaptations of The Hound of the Baskervilles and a four-volume set of adaptations from Avon Camelot (once again including "The Speckled Band" as well as 13 other tales).

We could argue the strengths and weaknesses of these various adaptations, but the bigger question is whether there should be any adaptations at all. Would it be better to wait until young readers are capable of reading the original rather than presenting them with something that's close but no cigar? What do you think?


  1. Any thing to get them to read and start on Sherlock Holmes, unless it's butchered to bad.

  2. Funny thing is some people in Poland tend to think that Sherlock Holmes is for kids/young immature people. I guess it's bad influence of Hollywood adaptations like the one with Downey Jr.