The Hound of the Baskervilles (Dover Graphic Classics)
The Hound of the Baskervilles (Dover Graphic Classics) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, adapted and illustrated by John Green. November, 2014. Dover Publications, 48 p. $3.99 ISBN: 9780486785073.
“The intrepid detective and his faithful assistant take on a supernatural challenge in one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s most popular mysteries. This graphic novel’s original illustrations accompany an easy-to-read account of Holmes and Watson’s investigation of a family curse. Readers will be irresistibly drawn into the search for a giant spectral hound that haunts the fog-shrouded moors.
This Dover Graphic Novel Classic offers readers ages 8 and up an exciting introduction to a time-honored tale. Expertly abridged and packed with dramatic illustrations, this version offers a streamlined narrative that retains all of the storytelling essentials.” — Publisher’s Description
Note: I took the approach of reviewing this title looking at it for what it is, an abridged graphic novel version of the classic Sherlock Holmes story meant for children. As a result, I don’t address Doyle’s story, but rather the abridgment, artwork, layout, and effectiveness of this work as a graphic novel.
I wanted to like this one, I really did. I am a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of the Baskervilles, and I have always loved Dover Publication’s approach to the classics and they way that they work to make them accessible and easy to read for children and young adults. When I saw the opportunity to review a graphic novel version from Dover, I was naturally excited. Unfortunately this was short lived.
By its nature, an abridged version of a novel or story is going to be missing subplots or chunks of action, or have them explained away in a simple narrative. The same formula was followed here, but with the unique feature of keeping most, if not all of the original dialogue intact. The resulting story was then choppy and did not flow well at all, switching between John Green’s simpler descriptive terms and Doyle’s more formal Victorian language. Since the idea here is to get readers “ages 8 and up” interested in the story, I felt that it fell short. This type of editing should be an all or nothing proposition. The language should be geared to that age and reading level advertised for it to be an effective introduction. I would like to see a book like this in a simple form, then refer those students who are able to and ready to handle the more complex original text to then read that after. The other downfall of this adaptation is that it had tried to oversimplify a complex story. The themes, character motivations, and actions are quite mature and difficult to tone down for the recommended age group to understand. I am afraid that much of the story is lost on this age group because of that.
I would be remiss in a review of a graphic novel to not address the artwork as well. Reading the cover description provided in my copy, stated that this is not your average graphic novel, but rather one that readers can color themselves. Because of this, all the drawings are simple black line drawings. The lack of color aside, and explained, I found the art to still be lacking. Most characters were lacking any depth, showed no emotion to the point of rigidity, and unfortunately, looked too similar in appearance to make them distinguishable without color. Even as a coloring book, this work is lacking, as several panels and pages are simply closeups of a character’s face with their word bubble, leaving little to the imagination for a child to color.
While a wonderful idea and a unique concept to find a way to introduce children to classic literature, The Hound of the Baskervilles here falls short. It is not really a graphic novel, nor an abridged, simplified version. I would not recommend this for reluctant readers because of the liberal use of the original text, nor for graphic novel fans as it is barely that as well. Perhaps only the Holmes or Dover completest would find this book to be a perfect fit in their collection, but otherwise it missed the mark.
Two out of five stars.
Many thanks to Dover Publications, NetGalley, and John Green for the opportunity to read and review The Hound of the Baskervilles (Dover Graphic Classics) early in exchange for an honest review. The final version will be released on November 19, 2014.
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