This series of books may well have been the most ridiculously great bargain my mother ever spent money on, when one measures the amount spent vs. the educational gain. Anyone remember them? They came out in the late 1960s, large hardback adventure classics familiar to most people: Treasure Island, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, Alice in Wonderland, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and more. They looked like this:
What made these versions great, above and beyond the basic greatness of the literature:
- Nearly all were unabridged–but no fear on frustrating references, as margin entries defined anachronistic or complex words for the young reader.
- The cover and interior art was something to behold, painting just enough imagery to help the young mind do the rest.
- The afterword was always interesting and revealing, both about the author and about the story’s times.
- With relatively large print, children had an easy time with them.
One may imagine the pause it gave me, many years later, when my writing and editing work called for me to abridge some of these very classics for young readers. Full circle indeed. Take a literary scalpel to Robert Louis Stevenson? In the cause of enticing young people to the joy of reading, yes.
I read my Educator Classics so many times I had whole passages memorized before I went off to kindergarten. This is more a tribute to the books’ greatness than to any youthful eideticism on my part. Later in life, I realized our family never owned them all. Of course, I still have all the originals we did own–those aren’t going anywhere until they scatter my ashes. Now, thanks to the ease and versatility of modern used book hunting, I am seeking these out one by one so as to complete the collection.
If you are doing the same, a lady named Valerie has compiled a full list of the series, including some knowledgeable notes. She’s right; they would be ideal homeschooling tools. I think they’re one of the best possible ways to introduce kids to the adventure novel.