Adult reads vs Adapted Younger Reads

Hi everyone, I hope this month of February is treating you better than me. Having to endure some health issues over the last month or so has left me a bit behind in preparing my posts. So, please forgive me if the next few posts seem to have less body to them. In saying that, this week I’ll be discussing the advantages of reading adaptations of adult books more suitable for younger readers.

I’ll be starting with two fictionalized accounts. 

Orphan train girl has been adapted from the original ‘Orphan Girl: a novel’ by the author Christina Baker Kline and Sarah Thomson. Published in 2017 by HarperCollins this novel tells the story of two very different girls over two eras. 

cover image of young girl looking out of window wearing green dress. shadow of trees on her face. yellow letters at top read Orphan train girl.
An interesting read

Molly Ayer has been shipped from one foster home to another for as long as she can remember. Most of the time, Molly knows she’s the problem – talking back, bad attitude – but how is she supposed to behave when her foster parents act like they don’t want her there? After stealing a book from the library, Molly is forced to do community service, helping an elderly widow clean out her attic. Just one more adult to look at her like she’s a troublemaking foster kid. But Vivian isn’t like any adults that Molly has encountered. Vivian actually listens when Molly talks. Working with Vivian in the attic has revealed to Molly that they have some surprising things in common. Vivian, like Molly, was an orphan – an Irish immigrant to New York City who was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children. Molly can relate to being parentless, alone, and unwanted. She never realized it, but having someone to talk to has shown her how much hurt she’s been keeping inside. As Vivian and Molly make their way through what they find in the attic… a mustard-coloured coat, a sewing kit, a copy of Anne of Green Gables – they uncover parts of themselves that they haven’t shared with anyone, clearing boxes of things from the past out of their way, and forging a path of friendship, forgiveness, and new beginnings. 

I must be honest here, I found this a poignant and heartfelt story!! I liked the historical episodes detailing Vivian’s early life and showing us what life was like back during those Depression years. Molly’s character took a while to warm to but eventually you couldn’t help liking her and the older Vivian. Books such as this, those based on actual historical figures, places, and events, bring a lot of insight into the type of character one needed to be to survive back then. A very well detailed book despite being the version intended for younger readers. 

My rating: 4 ⭐

My next one is actually based on an actual historical event. This adaptation is the author’s version of part of the actual memoir of Dita Kraus, ‘A delayed life.’

cover image of stack of books and girl standing on top of it. white star above her and fences along bottom. dark night sky. last three books have words The Librarian of Auschwitz on them.
A poignant read

The librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe and translated by Lilit Žekulin Thwaites is the startling account of an extraordinary young woman. Published by Henry Holt & Co in 2012 but translated in 2017, this book tells an amazing historical account. Fourteen-year-old Dita is one of the many imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Displaced, along with her mother and father, from their home in Prague – first to the capital city’s ghetto, then northward to Auschwitz in Poland – Dita is adjusting to the constant terror that is life in the camp. When Jewish leader Fredy Hirsch asks Dita to take charge of the eight precious volumes the prisoners have managed to sneak past the guards, she agrees, becoming the librarian of Auschwitz. 

From one of the darkest chapters of human history comes an extraordinary story of courage and hope. Based on the experiences of real-life Auschwitz prisoner Dita Kraus, this is the incredible story of a girl who risked her life to keep the magic of books alive during the Holocaust. 

When I finished this I felt as if I’d been wrung through an old-fashioned clothes dryer. Every single atom of my being was wrenched. Amidst all the horrors of Auschwitz, to think that in one building housed a school and library where children learned to read, write and play was so unexpected. I had no idea until I read this book!! Dita Kraus is a remarkable young woman who survived through it all to tell her tale. The language used here is vibrant and raw. Thwaites has done an amazing job in translating the narrative penned out by Iturbe. It reads to me more like a news article of some sort, I guess, because we get to see what the future outcomes are for most of the characters involved. The postscript at the end explains the actual history behind the librarian of Block 31 and the author’s experiences during his visit to Auschwitz and consequent meeting of Dita at Prague. When I read those words I swear I got goosebumps!! Also I must add that Dita, her mother and friend Margit had been in Bergen-Belsen at the same time a 15-year-old Anne Frank was struggling with typhus that claimed her life!! Yes, I know, I actually put the book down and cried!! The final chapter details what happened to the major figures and the end role they played as the Second World War ended. This is not suitable for anyone under the age of 18 in my opinion!!

My rating: 4 ⭐

The last two titles are non-fiction titles I found over the lockdown last year which I thought would be great for such a post!! 

Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy was adapted into a young reader’s version in 2018 and even making its way to the silver screen is an explosive account you shouldn’t miss.

cover image of African American man in blue suit. slight orange hue on left side. white letters Just Mercy along bottom.
Engaging and powerful…

In this very personal work acclaimed lawyer and social justice advocate Bryan Stevenson offers a glimpse into the lives of the wrongfully imprisoned and his efforts to fight for their freedom. Stevenson’s story is one of working to protect basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society; the poor, the wrongly convicted, and those whose lives have been marked by discrimination and marginalization. Through this adaptation, young people of today will find themselves called to action and compassion in the pursuit of justice.

This young adult version took me deep into a broken justice system. I didn’t realize until I read this book how many young people and mentally disabled people populated the prisons in the US. Stevenson’s words from his personal experience painted a most powerful image of the US justice system. I felt humbled by what he eventually achieved through his hard work. Some of the chapters in this read were a bit hard for me to read but quite thought-provoking so would be better for older teens!!

My rating: 4 ⭐

The Omnivore’s dilemma by Michael Pollan was published in 2015 and includes eating tips adapted from his other title Food Rule and In Defense of Food.

cover image of large corn on cob with white background. blue letters above read The Omnivore's Dilemma and Michael Pollan in orange at bottom.
An interesting find…

From fast food and big organic to small farms and old-fashioned hunting and gathering, this young readers’ adaptation of Pollan’s famous food-chain exploration encourages kids to consider the personal and global health implications of their food choices. In a smart, compelling format with updated facts, plenty of photos, graphs, and visuals, as well as a new afterword and backmatter, The Omnivore’s Dilemma serves up a bold message to the generation that needs it most: It’s time to take charge of our national eating habits, and it starts with you.

What an astounding and eye-opening read this was!! I learned quite a bit about the food chain and supply of food to supermarkets. The extent of research  undertaken to write the original book is amazing. I like the way this version reads too. It’s very easy to understand without too much jargon and inclusion of graphics and photos. The information strips in some chapters are also helpful. I’d never realised the sweetness of soda came from a by-product of corn!! And the role it played in creating so many other things such as adhesives!! I enjoyed learning about Michael’s life and the experiences he had in both types of farms too. His experiences in the different types of farms were an education to say the least. 

My rating: 5 ⭐

So these are the selections I have for you. If you have read an others that have a young reader’s adaptation, I’d love to hear from you.

Stay safe and keep reading.

Miss Mahee

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