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From Classics to Graphics: 6 Literary Masterpieces Turned Into Graphic Novels

Abridging classic novels for younger readers is nothing new. But in recent years, classic literature has been graphic novel-ized, making it more accessible for readers young and old while preserving the plot, themes, and sometimes even the author's voice. English class will never be the same, thanks to these classics gone graphic.

1. The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde's only novel, about a man who sells his soul to maintain his beauty, was just begging for a more visual makeover. The 2009 graphic novel written by Ian Edginton and illustrated by I.N.J. Culbard abridges the text, but still keeps much of Wilde's original prose. Marvel's 2008 version has better graphics, but it reads more like a copy of SparkNotes. Both books are recommended as a supplement to—not a substitute for—the original work. In the words of Dorian Gray himself, "How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. If it were only the other way!"

2. The Metamorphosis

The Incredible Hulk. Wolverine. Gregor Samsa. All of these characters undergo major transformations, but only one of them might appear on an AP English exam. Franz Kafka's 1915 novella about a traveling salesman who wakes up to find he's turned into a huge insect makes for a compelling graphic novel. Peter Kuper's 2004 adaptation looks like an enjoyable read, but it goes against Kafka's wishes. When the cover of the first edition was being designed nearly a century ago, the author asked that Gregor not be drawn as an insect. Instead, he hoped readers would conjure their own image of "horrible vermin" when picturing the creepy-crawly protagonist.

The Trial, Kafka's dystopian novel about the perils of bureaucracy, has also been adapted into a graphic novel. And if you want to learn more about the man behind the stories, check out Kafka's graphic biography by R. Crumb and David Zane Mairowitz.

3. Ulysses

Ulysses is one of those works that comes with a few barriers to entry. For starters, the Penguin Classics version is 1040 pages long. Then there are the 18 unstructured chapters that James Joyce boasted "[have] so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant." (Thanks, dude.) But Robert Berry's "Ulysses 'seen'" makes the modernist masterpiece more modern—and accessible—than ever. The graphic novel is available for free online or $7.99 on the iPad. Like the original, Berry's adaptation is serialized and raised a few questions of obscenity—Apple required nude images to be removed. Unlike the original, each chapter comes with a handy reader's guide.

4. Pride and Prejudice

Plenty of readers all over the world have no trouble reading Jane Austen's most popular novel. But what do you do after you've devoured the text and the six-part BBC series with Colin Firth as, omg, Mr. Darcy? Here's an idea: Get another fix with this 2009 graphic novel version from Marvel. The story's abridged, but reviewers on Amazon say it's more true to the novel than some film adaptations. The women's-magazine-style cover with headlines like "Bingleys Bring Bling to Britain" is fun, too.

And if you like this Marvel graphic novel, there are many others adapted by author Janet Lee, including Sense and Sensibility and Emma.

5. The Diary of Anne Frank

Image Courtesy The JC.com

Anne Frank couldn't have imagined that the diary she started two days after her thirteenth birthday in 1942 would ever become a best-selling memoir, a Pulitzer-Prize winning play, and an Academy Award-winning film. The diary's latest incarnation: a 2010 graphic biography written by Sid Jacobson and illustrated by Ernie Colón. Commissioned by the Anne Frank House Museum, the biography depicts many years before and after Anne's time in the Secret Annex, from her parents' early lives to the publication of her diary to her father's life as the family's sole survivor.

6. A Wrinkle in Time

Image Courtesy GoodOKBad.com

It may not be part of the canon, but Madeline L'Engle's 1962 science fiction fantasy novel is a young-adult classic. While the original work contains a few illustrations, the graphic novel by Hope Larson published October 2 is the first to fully depict Meg, Calvin, Charles Wallace, and the rest of the characters as they journey through space and time. And c'mon, you know you want to see how Larson draws the tessering process.

Which classic would you like to see adapted next?

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Qatar National Library's Panorama-Style Bookshelves Offer Guests Stunning Views
Arend Kuester, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Arend Kuester, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The newly opened Qatar National Library in the capital city of Doha contains more than 1 million books, some of which date back to the 15th century. Co.Design reports that the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) designed the building so that the texts under its roof are the star attraction.

When guests walk into the library, they're given an eyeful of its collections. The shelves are arranged stadium-style, making it easy to appreciate the sheer number of volumes in the institution's inventory from any spot in the room. Not only is the design photogenic, it's also practical: The shelves, which were built from the same white marble as the floors, are integrated into the building's infrastructure, providing artificial lighting, ventilation, and a book-return system to visitors. The multi-leveled arrangement also gives guests more space to read, browse, and socialize.

"With Qatar National Library, we wanted to express the vitality of the book by creating a design that brings study, research, collaboration, and interaction within the collection itself," OMA writes on its website. "The library is conceived as a single room which houses both people and books."

While most books are on full display, OMA chose a different route for the institution's Heritage Library, which contains many rare, centuries-old texts on Arab-Islamic history. This collection is housed in a sunken space 20 feet below ground level, with beige stone features that stand out from the white marble used elsewhere. Guests need to use a separate entrance to access it, but they can look down at the collection from the ground floor above.

If Qatar is too far of a trip, there are plenty of libraries in the U.S. that are worth a visit. Check out these panoramas of the most stunning examples.

Qatar library.

Qatar library.

Qatar library.

[h/t Co.Design]

All images: Arend Kuester, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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Reading Aloud to Your Kids Can Promote Good Behavior and Sharpen Their Attention
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Some benefits of reading aloud to children are easy to see. It allows parents to introduce kids to books that they're not quite ready to read on their own, thus improving their literacy skills. But a new study published in the journal Pediatrics shows that the simple act of reading to your kids can also influence their behavior in surprising ways.

As The New York Times reports, researchers looked at young children from 675 low-income families. Of that group, 225 families were enrolled in a parent-education program called the Video Interaction Project, or VIP, with the remaining families serving as the control.

Participants in VIP visited a pediatric clinic where they were videotaped playing and reading with their children, ranging in age from infants to toddlers, for about five minutes. Following the sessions, videos were played back for parents so they could see how their kids responded to the positive interactions.

They found that 3-year-olds taking part in the study had a much lower chance of being aggressive or hyperactive than children in the control group of the same age. The researchers wondered if these same effects would still be visible after the program ended, so they revisited the children 18 months later when the kids were approaching grade-school age. Sure enough, the study subjects showed fewer behavioral problems and better focus than their peers who didn't receive the same intervention.

Reading to kids isn't just a way to get them excited about books at a young age—it's also a positive form of social interaction, which is crucial at the early stages of social and emotional development. The study authors write, "Such programs [as VIP] can result in clinically important differences on long-term educational outcomes, given the central role of behavior for child learning."

Being read to is something that can benefit all kids, but for low-income parents working long hours and unable to afford childcare, finding the time for it is often a struggle. According to the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children’s Health, only 34 percent of children under 5 in families below the poverty line were read to every day, compared with 60 percent of children from wealthier families. One way to narrow this divide is by teaching new parents about the benefits of reading to their children, possibly when they visit the pediatrician during the crucial first months of their child's life.

[h/t The New York Times]

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