Like many people in metro areas, particularly the DC/Baltimore metro where we are based, I have a very long daily commute in my car. I go through cycles where I listen to music, I listen to NPR, or I listen to books on tape. I have been on a classics kick lately, choosing books that I read when I was much younger but only vaguely remember. I find these books require me to listen a little more closely in order to follow along, and I can’t tune out or I’ll miss something. As a result, my drive seems to go a little more quickly. I just finished 1984 and now I’m “reading” Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.
As a producer, I often receive children’s book samples from publishers. We recently got a batch from Sterling Publishing, one of which I was thrilled to see was a children’s version of Great Expectations, “retold from the Charles Dickens original.” It’s a 145-page book written for a 9- to 11-year-old. I read through the first few chapters of this book, and I think it’s an excellent version. It follows the story closely while still being accessible to a young person today. There are some great illustrations as well.
It’s easy to forget about the classics when so many new and incredible books are being published every day. But as I wrote about awhile back in my Alice in Wonderland post, the classics provide a major foundation for so many of today’s cultural references.
If you can’t get your hands on one of these “retold” classics for your child to read on his own, consider reading them together. It’s a good opportunity for discussion (trust me, there will be lots of questions) and a great vocabulary builder. Our language has changed dramatically even in just a few decades, never mind 150 years ago, and the classics have a way of using those million-dollar words seamlessly. You might even throw in a game of Scrabble when you’re finished!