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Graphic Classics: The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo Review by Jennifer Loucks

Michael Ford
250 Wireless Blvd
Hauppauge, NY 11788

Homeschoolers have a wide range of opinions about novel adaptations. Some enthusiastically embrace them, while others feel they reduce great literature to merely plot lines. If novel adaptations have a place in your home, you may want to look for this one at the library or bookstore. Barrons'Graphic Classics series adapts classic novels into graphic novels that appeal to both teachers and students. At 48 pages, for ages 8 and up, this book includes a brief biography and time line of its author, a list of his important works, a glossary, and an index.

Generally speaking, a graphic novel is a longer comic book; it is a complete story (unlike serial-style comics), and usually has a more mature storyline and illustration style. The Hunchback of Notre Dame follows this format. It has 48 pages (quite a bit shorter than the novel), and the story is told by means of illustrations with "voice balloons" in boxes, and some narration boxes. This retelling of Victor Hugo's famous novel captures the dark, mysterious setting, intriguing, complex characters, and tension between the characters.

I've never read the original, so I can't say how faithful it is, but this adaptation is very enjoyable. My 9-year-old read it all in one sitting because she couldn't put it down. (I'd say it's best for ages 12 and up because of the somewhat mature themes.) A homeschool mom could give this book to her children to whet their appetites for a great literary work, to entice reluctant readers with some easy reading that's also "good for them," or to give them an overview before reading Mr. Hugo's novel. Parent teachers will appreciate the supplementary material in the back: a biography and timeline of the author, a list of his important works, a glossary, and an index. You'll enjoy this novel adaptation!

Product review by Jennifer Loucks, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March, 2009