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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

There’s an Idea: Short Stories Illustrated

Sometimes a company will implement an idea that makes me want to stand up, take notice, and perhaps dance a restrained ladylike jig.  Such was my reaction to The Creative Company’s decision to produce small books of adult short stories.  The kinds of things kids are assigned to read in school.

Thus far, I’ve seen four of the books in person.  These include:

The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs

css themonkeyspaw cover Theres an Idea: Short Stories Illustrated

The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant

css thenecklace cover Theres an Idea: Short Stories Illustrated

The Garden Party by Katherine Mansfield

css thegardenparty cover Theres an Idea: Short Stories Illustrated

The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell

css mostdangerousgame cover Theres an Idea: Short Stories Illustrated

Each book contains the story itself with various sections written in different colored fonts.  Then there is a series of thoughts on the story, and finally a biography of the author.

css ransomofredchief cvr Theres an Idea: Short Stories IllustratedOne might argue the logic of making such stories into their own books.  I mean, are they illustrated?  Not excessively, though there are small illustrations included at key moments.  So what is the advantage?  Well, to be frank, these are ideal for reluctant readers who have been assigned such stories in school but need just a small extra added push to give ‘em the impetus they need to follow through.  The stories make slim volumes, and aren’t the least bit imposing.  That said, you might worry that they look too much like picture books to lure in older readers.  Yet the sophistication of the covers brings to mind remarkably slim coffee table books more than anything else.

Of course the covers are the initial lure.  Artists employed include folks like Etienne Delessert, Roberto Innocenti, and Gary Kelly.  Then you open the book up and a sentence or two is placed right on the first page to lure you in.  These tend to be selected quotes from the books (ex: “Again, how curious, she seemed to be different from them all.  To take scraps from their party.  Would the poor woman really like that?”).  They entice you, sometimes giving a hint of the author’s intent (“He wanted to show that fate ruled people’s lives, and that those who interfered with it did so to their sorrow.”).  It’s all very clever.

css lottery cvrjpg Theres an Idea: Short Stories IllustratedWho is the readership for these books?  Ostensibly middle school readers and kids in high school.  Yet I could see a smart 10-year-old or even a curious college student picking one of these books up for a looksee.  They’re classic tales, after all.  A look at their catalog of other short stories yields titles they’ve already done (The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, The Lady, or the Tiger?, The Lottery, etc.) and future publications in the series like An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, The Rocking-Horse Winner, as well as a host of others.

So kudos to Creative Editions for coming up with an original way of catering to a kind of educational staple.  These have been around for a couple of years, but I’ve only just now had a chance to take proper note.  Now that I have, I’ll be trying to get a glimpse of more of the same.

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Elizabeth Bird About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently New York Public Library's Youth Materials Collections Specialist. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of NYPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.

Comments

  1. Jim A says:

    I think I might be the readership for these books. I love me a good classic short story. And how much better if it looks like a whole book.

  2. I agree–this is terrific. Especially when many short stories come to students Xeroxed from anthologies, or worse, in dusty old Great Literature textbooks (they’re more common than you think)–these look fresh and relevant, which is, as you pointed out, so important for reaching kids who hate reading. So glad you posted about this! I’m going to pass it on to the teachers I know.

  3. I really like this! That’s an excellent idea. I’ve read most of those within a a thick, boring school textbook. I must say I feel more compelled to read the stories that are between those delightful covers! I hope it appeals to young readers!

  4. Jeanne K. says:

    Gig? You mean dance a jig? (I’m sure your video is lovely. Wish I could see it, but youtube is blocked where I work).

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Gig jig, jig gig. Me j’s and me g’s apparently think that they are interchangeable. Good catch.

  5. Marilyn says:

    This really isn’t a new idea. Creative is just recycling something they’ve done in the past. I have a collection of about 20 titles from the 1980′s/1990′s. I loved them then and I love them now. I hope teachers will promote them.

  6. Don’t some of the cover illustrations have a distinct early ’70′s look? Like grimacing hunter on “The Most Dangerous Game” Or the men holding up Red Chief? The figure fleeing from “The Monkey’s Paw” looks like something from a Peter Max poster.
    PS–Maybe Betsy could get a paying gig by dancing a jig.

  7. Shanna says:

    I would be delighted to read and own these books, and I’m 32 years-old!

  8. dotdotdot says:

    I like the “Wonderfully Illustrated Short Pieces” that came out the other year. Apparently the publisher didn’t go to far with those, but we got McKean’s take on Bradbury’s The Homecoming, and Chris Raschka illustrating O.Henry. Pretty fun stuff.

  9. MT says:

    I am so looking forward to seeing The Garden Party – I look out on the houses of Tinakori Road from my workplace and I have the sneaking suspicion our building is pretty close to being on the site of number 75. This is Saunders Lane/Little George Street (albeit in flood) in 1893, five years before the Beauchamps moved in. http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/floods/2/2

  10. Jessica says:

    THank you for posting this! Great to see, finally. I saw books like these in a public library in London (Golders Green, actually) back in 2002 and came back to the US looking for them.

  11. I’d like to see Hemingway’s short stories illustrated… perhaps a bold charcoal sketch would suit?

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  1. [...] Jackson’s “The Lottery,” these books are geared towards in-school use. Writes The School Library Journal: Each book contains the story itself with various sections written in different colored fonts. Then [...]