Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wuthering Heights. Usborne Young Reading - A Review

We are very grateful to Usborne Publishing for sending us a review copy of this book

Wuthering Heights (Young Reading (Series 3))
Mary Sebag-Montefiore (Author)
Alan Marks (Illustrator)
# Publisher: Usborne Publishing Ltd
# ISBN-10: 1409521370
# ISBN-13: 978-1409521372
Once more we approach a Wuthering Heights adaptation for young readers. It's not only because it is a new book and we try to cover as much as we can of what is published on and about the Brontës. It's also because we think it is important. The measure of the perdurability of what we consider a classic is as much indebted to how it permeates contemporary culture as to how it is able to transcend age barriers as well. It is remarkable how some particular books manage it: Dickens's Oliver Twist (and in some measure Great Expectations or David Copperfield), Austen's Pride and Prejudice or Emma or, of course, Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre and Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights. The latter is particularly bizarre as Heathcliff and Catherine's love story can be all but children material. How to make the material appealing for children and at the same not betray the original is a very difficult task.

The Usborne Reading Programme is a collection of over 200 reading books (both fiction and non-fiction), coordinated by Alison Kelly (Principal Lecturer in English Education at Roehampton University in London) graded in seven levels. Each book is edited in hardback, with a ribbon marker and combines
vivid, engaging writing, with captivating full-colour illustration on every page, featuring the work of artists from around the world and superb contemporary or archive photography.
Wuthering Heights, retold by Mary Sebag-Montefiore and  illustrated by Alan Marks belongs to the Usborne Young Reading Series Three, which is aimed at readers from 7-11 years (KS2, 570L):
Series Three titles are for fully confident readers who still need to gain the stamina for standard length books. They use advanced sentence structure and vocabulary, and have more complex plots.
Mary Sebag-Montefiore's(1) adaptation follows the aforementioned rules and is able to condense the basics of the Wuthering Heights story in sixty pages (divided in six chapters) with a clearly readable and generous font size. It is no small feat as she is able to maintain the three or four phrases which any Wuthering Heights reader will recognise(2) practically verbatim and, at the same time, reduce the complexities of the psychology, characters and language and drive the story through dialoguing many of the events which in the original story are told in a more elaborate way.

The narrative is accompanied by 28 pencil and watercolour illustrations (plus the cover) by Alan Marks. His drawings are fluidic and the colour palette appropriately dark. Although some of the drawings are a bit hasty, almost unfinished they convey well the feeling of urgency that the tempo of the narrative by Mary Sebag-Montefiore suggests. Special attention should be paid to the presence of the moor landscape in some of the illustrations and/or the cloudy skies featured prominently displaying restlessness and forebodings of doom.

The book is complete with a Wuthering Heights family tree(3) and a last page with brief information about Emily Brontë and Haworth Parsonage.

Notes
(1) Mary Sebag-Montefiore is a published adaptor, author, and narrator of children's books. She has taken part in several Usborne Reading adaptations such as The Railway Children (Young Reading Series 2 Gift Books), Little Women (Usborne Young Reading: Series 3), Black Beauty (Young Reading Gift Books), and several others. She is also the author of  Women Writers of Children's Classics (Writers & Their Work), Northcote House Publishers Ltd (2008).
(2) The adaptation respects even the double layer of narrators: Nelly Dean inside Lockwood's narrative.
(3) The date of Isabella Linton's birth is wrong. She was born in 1765 (see, for instance, The Chronology of Wuthering Heights by Paul Thompson), not in 1769.

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Comments :

1 Comment
Anne Shirley said...
on  

I think is great to addapt this kind of books (classical) to kids, but do you really think that they will enjoy "Whuthering Heights", when the story is so complex and dark??? I think kids can't enjoy or understand this great novel like we can do. Besides that, it is a good way to let them know about great writers as Emily.
(sorry about my english)
p.s.: Did you read "The biography of Charlotte Brontë", of Elizabeth Gaskell?? If you did, what do you know about the death of Emily, when the author says that the young Brontë wanted to die standing her up?
Great blog! ♥

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