Before The Hunger Games there was Lord of the Flies
Lord of the Flies remains as provocative today as when it was first published in 1954, igniting passionate debate with its startling, brutal portrait of human nature. Though critically acclaimed, it was largely ignored upon its initial publication. Yet soon it became a cult favorite among both students and literary critics who compared it to J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye in its influence on modern thought and literature.
Labeled a parable, an allegory, a myth, a morality tale, a parody, a political treatise, even a vision of the apocalypse, Lord of the Flies has established itself as a true classic.
Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell’s chilling prophecy about the future. And while 1984 has come and gone, Orwell’s narrative is timelier than ever. 1984 presents a startling and haunting vision of the world, so powerful that it is completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the power of this novel, its hold on the imaginations of multiple generations of readers, or the resiliency of its admonitions—a legacy that seems only to grow with the passage of time.
The Pevensie siblings travel back to Narnia to help a prince denied his rightful throne as he gathers an army in a desperate attempt to rid his land of a false king. But in the end, it is a battle of honor between two men alone that will decide the fate of an entire world.
A battle is about to begin in Prince Caspian, the fourth book in C. S. Lewis’s classic fantasy series, which has been enchanting readers of all ages for over sixty years. This is a stand-alone novel, but if you would like to see more of Lucy and Edmund’s adventures, read The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the fifth book in The Chronicles of Narnia.
It is the French Riviera in the 1920s. Nicole and Dick Diver are a wealthy, elegant, magnetic couple. A coterie of admirers are drawn to them, none more so than the blooming young starlet Rosemary Hoyt. When Rosemary falls for Dick, the Diver’s calculated perfection begins to crack.
As dark truths emerge, Fitzgerald shows both the disintegration of a marriage and the failure of idealism. Tender is the Night is as sad as it is beautiful.
The Sound and the Fury is the tragedy of the Compson family, featuring some of the most memorable characters in literature: beautiful, rebellious Caddy; the manchild Benjy; haunted, neurotic Quentin; Jason, the brutal cynic; and Dilsey, their black servant. Their lives fragmented and harrowed by history and legacy, the character’s voices and actions mesh to create what is arguably Faulkner’s masterpiece and one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century.
Recently the basis for a major motion picture starring Hollywood golden boy Brad Pitt, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” was written in 1922 by the golden boy of early twentieth-century American fiction, F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of such era-defining masterworks as The Great Gatsby and Tender is the Night. The tale follows the travails and triumphs of the title character, who is born in the body of an elderly man and becomes progressively younger over the course of his life.
The most popular pirate story ever written in English, featuring one of literature’s most beloved “bad guys,” Treasure Island has been happily devoured by several generations of boys—and girls—and grownups. Its unforgettable characters include: young Jim Hawkins, who finds himself owner of a map to Treasure Island, where the fabled pirate booty is buried; honest Captain Smollett, heroic Dr. Livesey, and the good-hearted but obtuse Squire Trelawney, who help Jim on his quest for the treasure; the frightening Blind Pew, double-dealing Israel Hands, and seemingly mad Ben Gunn, buccaneers of varying shades of menace; and, of course, garrulous, affable, ambiguous Long John Silver, who is one moment a friendly, laughing, one-legged sea-cook . . .and the next a dangerous pirate leader!
The unexpected and complex relationship that develops between Silver and Jim helps transform what seems at first to be a simple, rip-roaring adventure story into a deeply moving study of a boy’s growth into manhood, as he learns hard lessons about friendship, loyalty, courage and honor—and the uncertain meaning of good and evil.
We owe The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) to Arthur Conan Doyle’s good friend Fletcher “Bobbles” Robinson, who took him to visit some scary English moors and prehistoric ruins, and told him marvelous local legends about escaped prisoners and a 17th-century aristocrat who fell afoul of the family dog. Doyle transmogrified the legend: generations ago, a hound of hell tore out the throat of devilish Hugo Baskerville on the moonlit moor. Poor, accursed Baskerville Hall now has another mysterious death: that of Sir Charles Baskerville. Could the culprit somehow be mixed up with secretive servant Barrymore, history-obsessed Dr. Frankland, butterfly-chasing Stapleton, or Selden, the Notting Hill murderer at large? Someone’s been signaling with candles from the mansion’s windows. Nor can supernatural forces be ruled out. Can Dr. Watson–left alone by Sherlock Holmes to sleuth in fear for much of the novel–save the next Baskerville, Sir Henry, from the hound’s fangs?
Many Holmes fans prefer Doyle’s complete short stories, but their clockwork logic doesn’t match the author’s boast about this novel: it’s “a real Creeper!” What distinguishes this particular Hound is its fulfillment of Doyle’s great debt to Edgar Allan Poe–it’s full of ancient woe, low moans, a Grimpen Mire that sucks ponies to Dostoyevskian deaths, and locals digging up Neolithic skulls without next-of-kins’ consent. “The longer one stays here the more does the spirit of the moor sink into one’s soul,” Watson realizes. “Rank reeds and lush, slimy water-plants sent an odour of decay … while a false step plunged us more than once thigh-deep into the dark, quivering mire, which shook for yards in soft undulations around our feet … it was as if some malignant hand was tugging us down into those obscene depths.” Read on–but, reader, watch your step!
Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only eighteen. At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.
Frankenstein, an instant bestseller and an important ancestor of both the horror and science fiction genres, not only tells a terrifying story, but also raises profound, disturbing questions about the very nature of life and the place of humankind within the cosmos: What does it mean to be human? What responsibilities do we have to each other? How far can we go in tampering with Nature? In our age, filled with news of organ donation genetic engineering, and bio-terrorism, these questions are more relevant than ever.
On a desperate journey, two runaways meet and join forces. Though they are only looking to escape their harsh and narrow lives, they soon find themselves at the center of a terrible battle. It is a battle that will decide their fate and the fate of Narnia itself.
The Horse and His Boy is the third book in C. S. Lewis’s classic fantasy series, which has captivated readers of all ages with magical lands and unforgettable characters for over sixty years. This is a novel that stands on its own, but if you would like to journey back to Narnia, read Prince Caspian, the fourth book in The Chronicles of Narnia.
Trapped in an Underwater Vessel with a Brilliant Mad Misanthrope! that about sums it up. Since our challenge this month was classics, and I haven’t tried many graphic novels, I thought I’d give this book a go. This is my 2nd or 3rd graphic novel, and I find I don’t get much out of these [though as a kid, some of the Classic Comics really brought to life some of the classics, but others didn't work]. On top of the limited plot-line the artwork was dreary, you could have had some beautiful underwater scenes, for example of Atlantis or the cool fish. But No.
The classic Christmas tale of one man’s journey to learn what’s really important in life and how just one person does matter. With four ghosts, sweet Tiny Tim even though this story is set in Victorian England it contains important lessons and reminders for all of us. God Bless Us One and All!
Four adventurous siblings—Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie—step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change . . . and a great sacrifice.
Journey into the land beyond the wardrobe! The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the second book in C. S. Lewis’s classic fantasy series, which has been captivating readers of all ages for over sixty years. This is a stand-alone novel, but if you would like journey back to Narnia, read The Horse and His Boy, the third book in The Chronicles of Narnia.
A horse is a horse of course unless of course the horse is Black Beauty. Animal-loving children have been devoted to Black Beauty throughout this century, and no doubt will continue through the next.
Although Anna Sewell’s classic paints a clear picture of turn-of-the-century London, its message is universal and timeless: animals will serve humans well if they are treated with consideration and kindness.
Black Beauty tells the story of the horse’s own long and varied life, from a well-born colt in a pleasant meadow to an elegant carriage horse for a gentleman to a painfully overworked cab horse.
Throughout, Sewell rails – in a gentle, 19th-century way – against animal maltreatment. Young readers will follow Black Beauty’s fortunes, good and bad, with gentle masters as well as cruel. Children can easily make the leap from horse-human relationships to human-human relationships, and begin to understand how their own consideration of others may be a benefit to all.
On a daring quest to save a life, two friends are hurled into another world, where an evil sorceress seeks to enslave them. But then the lion Aslan’s song weaves itself into the fabric of a new land, a land that will be known as Narnia. And in Narnia, all things are possible.
Witness the creation of a magical land in The Magician’s Nephew, the first title in C. S. Lewis’s classic fantasy series, which has captivated readers of all ages for over sixty years. This is a stand-alone novel, but if you want to journey back to Narnia, read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the second book in The Chronicles of Narnia.
The animals have taken over Manor Farm. They have kicked farmer Jones off the land and decided to run it themselves. Everything starts out really well. They come up with the seven commandments of animalism and all work cooperatively. Then the pigs, who are in charge because they are the smartest, start changing things. The other animals are working harder for less and the pigs are working less for more. Soon their animal utopia turns into something else.
Animal Farm is a book that has been on my shelf for a while unread. Even though this book was written over 60 years ago there is still something timeless about it. Orwell was a genius at political satire and I think he captured the essence of the communist movement very well. I might not know a whole lot about the rise of communism in the 20th century or about communist nations today, but his description of Animal Farm seemed to ring true. I really enjoyed the progression from cooperative to totalitarian state and the degrading of the seven commandments. This is not a story with a happy ending, nor one where the evil doers get their just desserts. This is a story about a political system that creates an elite at the expense of the people and about a people that allow it.
Anne Frank, June 1929 – March 1945 Anneliesse Marie Frank was born on June 12, 1929 in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany. She was the second daughter of Otto and Edith Frank. Anne’s father was a factory worker, who moved his family to Amsterdam in 1933 to escape the Nazi’s. There he opened up a branch of his uncle’s company and Anne and her sister Margot resumed a normal life, attending a Montessori School in Amsterdam.
The Germans attacked the Netherlands in 1940 and took control, issuing anti-Jewish decrees, and forcing the Frank sisters into a Jewish Lyceum instead of their old school. Their father Otto decided to find a place for the family to hide should the time come that the Nazi’s came to take them to a concentration camp. He chose the annex above his offices and found some trustworthy friends among his fellow workers to supply the family with food and news. On July 5, 1942, Margot received a “call up” to serve in the Nazi “work camp.” The next day, the family escaped to the annex, welcoming another family, the van Pels, which consisted of Hermann and Auguste van Pels and their son Peter. Fritz Pfeffer also came to stay with them, causing the count to come to eight people hiding in the annex.
Anne, Margot and Peter continued their studies under the tutelage of Otto, and all of the captives found ways to entertain themselves for the long years they remained hidden. On August 4, 1944, four Dutch Nazis came to arrest the eight, having discovered their hiding place through an informant. Anne’s diary was left behind and found later by one of the family’s friends. The eight were taken to prison in Amsterdam and then deported to Westerbork before being shipped to Auschwitz. At Auschwitz, the men were separated from the women and Hermann van Pels was immediately gassed. Fritz Pfeffer died at Neuenganme in 1944.
Anne, Margot and Mrs. van Pels were taken to Bergen-Belson, leaving behind Anne’s mother, Edith, who died at Auschwitz of starvation and exhaustion in 1945. At Bergen-Belson, Anne and Margot contracted typhus and died of the disease in March of 1945. Anne was 15 and Margot was 17. The exact date and the place they were buried is unknown. Otto Frank was the only one of the original group of eight who were hidden in the annex to survive. He was left for dead at Auschwitz when the Russian Army came to liberate the camp. It is due to him that Anne’s diary was published and became the success it is.
Jules Verne’s undersea adventure novel gets the graphic novel treatment by artist-author Gary Gianni, best known for his illustrating work on the Prince Valiant comic. Gianni’s beautiful retro art style is perfectly suited for Verne’s stories, so I’m not surprised he was interested in adapting Leagues. The narrative is necessarily pared down, but the tone and major plot points of the original are here, and the art is wonderful. A reprinting of a 1962 essay by Ray Bradbury serves as an introduction, and alone is worth picking up this book. Also included is the full text of Sea Raiders, by H.G. Wells, which Gianni also illustrates. Highly recommended for those appreciative of classic adventure writing and illustration.
The Lovecraft Anthology is a graphic collection of Lovecraft’s tales, adapted and illustrated by a variety of authors and artists. Featured in this first volume are several classics, including Call of Cthulhu, and The Shadow Over Innsmouth.
Beyond the artwork, these adaptations also are quick verbal sketches of Lovecraft’s work. I enjoyed them, but often regretted the stories weren’t covered in more detail. Creating artwork is very time consuming, though, and being exposed to the styles of multiple artists was worth missing out on a few story details. As with any multiple-artist anthology, I had style preferences (D’Israeli!), but this will vary by reader. Recommended as an introduction to dark Lovecraftian worlds.