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Graphic Classics: Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne; Graphic Classics: Moby Dick by Herman Melville Review by Cindy West

Barron's Educational Series, Inc
250 Wireless Boulevard
Hauppauge, NY 11788

Graphic Classics are just what the name implies, classic pieces of literature modified into graphic, comic-strip-style stories. Both Journey to the Center of the Earth and Moby Dick are colorful, fast-paced retellings of their unabridged counterparts. Each book includes a cast of characters, a short biography of the author, a timeline, a map, and a list of other works written by the author.

Recommended for ages eight and up, these books are nice introductions to the original works. Each chapter from the original book is covered on a two-page spread in the Graphic Classic, so the entire book can be read in one or two sittings. Reluctant readers would likely enjoy reading these because of the comic strip format, the adventure, and the engaging illustrations.

My husband and 7-year-old son read the books together and found them to be entertaining. My son has just been introduced to the world of comics, so he was very excited when both books arrived. As for myself, I enjoyed the books but much prefer the original works of any author. There always seems to be much of the enchantment lost in the retelling of a classic piece of literature. However, I know my son will have a knowledge base for each book that will prepare him for better understanding when the time comes to read the originals. My son was also very interested in the informational sections (timelines, maps, and author biographies) after reading the books. Normally, he wouldn't care to be bothered by such information.

Graphic Classics can have a place in almost any curriculum. They are books, and homeschoolers love books, right? Famous educator Charlotte Mason encouraged the use of "living books" over twaddle. In other words, she encouraged the reading of books that were well written and engaging, rather than books that are "dumbed-down." I have to admit that, in my opinion, the Graphic Classics bordered on twaddle rather than living literature. That being said, as inexpensive as they are, if they draw your children in and get them excited about reading, they would be worth the money spent.

Happy reading!

Product review by Cindy West, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, August 2007