Saturday, March 3, 2007


Reinforced Library Binding (Hardback)
PUBLISHER: Stone Arch Books
GENRE: Traditional Literature in Graphic Form

  • Relationships (friendship and mild budding romance)
  • Death
  • Crime
  • Adolescence
  • Rural Living
  • Honesty
  • Secret Keeping
  • Attending School
  • Action-Adventure
  • Racial Stereotypes
  • Greed
  • Deception
  • Betrayal
  • Acceptance

The clever boy, Tom Sawyer, is a precocious child full of trickery and general mischief. He has an active imagination and enjoys childlike adventures and playing tricks on everyone, including his Aunt Polly. His best friend, Huck Finn, lives on his own and the two frequently play together. One night, however, the two witness a murder that leads to some real-life danger-filled adventures. The two must decide whether to keep the secret or risk life and limb to do the right thing and save an innocent man’s life.

  • Tom Sawyer
  • Huck Finn
  • Joe Harper
  • Aunt Polly
  • Injun Joe
  • Muff Potter
  • Doc
  • Becky Thatcher
  • Widow Douglas

My Rating: All Ages
Publisher’s Recommended Reading Level: Grades 2-3
Publisher’s Recommended Interest Level: Grades 5-9

The reading level of the work is low, which is appropriate for young readers and higher-grade reluctant readers. I can see early emerging readers being very interested in this book, as will upper elementary and even middle school students.

This is a retelling of Mark Twain’s famous novel by the same name. This particular adaptation is done in comic book form, reinventing this classic story for a modern young audience. It is very hard to capture the richness of the original novel in just 63 pages; author, M.C. Hall, did it in six chapters: Tom in Trouble, Murder in the Graveyard, A Pirate’s Life, More Trouble for Tom, Treasure, and Lost and Found. The story is rushed a bit and is focused on the action, leaving the character development as a side note. That will leave young readers wondering why the characters do what they do and may even confuse them about what is going on. However, that can lead to good discussion and possibly send a student toward the original work. To that end, the sparseness and speed of the story may serve the graphic adaptation well. I would still argue that the storyteller could have gone into more detail.

Illustrated by Daniel Strickland, this book is in full color with heavy inks. The characters are simply drawn with medium to heavy ink outlines. The coloring is mostly one-dimensional and shading of characters is typically achieved through high contrast, heavy inking rather than through the use of color. The backgrounds, however, are sometimes constructed with color shading. Typically, there are 2-3 panels per page with very little overlay. The illustrator used a minimalist approach with both character and setting. Considering a young audience, the art may be very appropriate. This does not have a grown-up look, making it very appealing to kids. It is obviously meant for children, pre-teens and teens. The construction of the book is very good. It is a hardback edition with high quality glossy pages.

As with any work by Mark Twain, the story is rich and interesting. It leaves open a discussion on many fronts. There are many topics to talk about in the classroom such as examples:

  • Analyzing how and why Tom tricks his friends into doing his chores.
  • Does a good friend trick his or her friends?
  • Comparison of the life between Tom and Huck
  • Pseudo-adoption and acceptance of Huck by Widow Douglas
  • Examination of how greed influences behavior
  • The stereotypes of American Indians
  • Understanding the grief associated with death
  • The harm of keeping secrets
  • Why do kids who like one another sometimes act mean to each other?
  • Should Tom and Huck have told about what they witnessed?
  • How would the fear of being murdered by Injun Joe affect Tom?

This story is very applicable to many students and from it many discussions and writing assignments could present themselves. The setting of the story lends itself to good discussion about rural living and the importance of the Mississippi River to the economy. The cave as a story element could lead to several science projects about caves and the biological organism located therein. One could even do an experiment to explore the importance of whitewashing a fence and what happens to unprotected wood. It might be interesting to discover what animals live in such a rural setting.

Stone Arch Books also publishes other works of fiction as graphic novels: King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Robin Hood, Treasure Island, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Black Beauty.

I would recommend this for any elementary or middle school. It is an excellent way to introduce young children to classic literature without overwhelming them with large amounts of prose. There is only small amounts of reading material to each page, making it pretty easy.

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