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The Ray Bradbury-Charles Addams Book That Could Have Been

Meet Great Grandmère, an ancient, mummified matriarch who is roused only for important family events. Then we have Uncle Einar, an elderly vampire who has lost his ability to fly. Cecy is a witch who experiences the world through her dreams. Finally, there’s Timothy, a human boy who finds himself living with this otherworldly outfit. Though they sound like characters straight out of 1960s monster sitcoms or The Addams Family, this peculiar posse dreamed up by Fahrenheit 451 author Ray Bradbury predated its television descendants.

The Elliotts first entered the public sphere when Bradbury’s short story, Homecoming, was published in Mademoiselle magazine in 1946. Charles Addams was tapped to create the illustrations for the piece, likely thanks to the creepy and kooky clan he had been drawing for The New Yorker since 1938.

“I was 26 years old when I met [Addams] in New York and he had just done that painting for Mademoiselle,” Bradbury later told IndieBound. “When I saw it I realized he was a kindred spirit so we made plans to write a book together.” The result, Bradbury believed, would be a Halloween classic that would inspire people to gather around the fire every October to read tales from the tome, just like they did with Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in December.

“I believe in this more than I have believed in anything in my writing career. I want you to be in it with me,” he wrote to Addams on February 11, 1948.

The plan was to create an anthology of stories and illustrations over a period of years. They pitched the idea to publishers, who were interested enough to start planning a book made with black paper and white type. In the end, Addams's high fee made publishers step back, and both men moved on. "The years passed, some stories were written, we stayed in touch but went our separate ways,” Bradbury later wrote. Addams further developed his own macabre bunch, inking a deal to turn his New Yorker drawings into a TV series called The Addams Family.

Bradbury, of course, continued to be a prolific writer. By the time he was inspired to return to the Elliott family, “dear Charles Addams had passed into that Eternity inhabited by the creatures of his and my world,” he wrote at the beginning of From the Dust Returned, the long dreamed of anthology that was eventually published in 2001. Though Addams was no longer around to create new depictions of the Elliotts, Bradbury dug out the old illustration from Mademoiselle and used it on the cover—a small taste of what could have been if a publisher had realized the possibilities.

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Kyle Ely
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Dedicated Middle School Teacher Transforms His Classroom Into Hogwarts
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Kyle Ely

It would be hard to dread back-to-school season with Kyle Ely as your teacher. As ABC News reports, the instructor brought a piece of Hogwarts to Evergreen Middle School in Hillsboro, Oregon by plastering his classroom with Harry Potter-themed decor.

The journey into the school's makeshift wizarding world started at his door, which was decorated with red brick wall paper and a "Platform 9 3/4" sign above the entrance. Inside, students found a convincing Hogwarts classroom complete with floating candles, a sorting hat, owl statues, and house crests. He even managed to recreate the starry night sky effect of the school’s Great Hall by covering the ceiling with black garbage bags and splattering them with white paint.

The whole project cost the teacher around $300 to $400 and took him 70 hours to build. As a long-time Harry Potter fan, he said that being able to share his love of the book series with his students made it all pay off it. He wrote in a Facebook post, "Seeing their faces light up made all the time and effort put into this totally worth it."

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Though wildly creative, the Hogwarts-themed classroom at Evergreen Middle School isn't the first of its kind. Back in 2015, a middle school teacher in Oklahoma City outfitted her classroom with a potions station and a stuffed version of Fluffy to make the new school year a little more magical. Here are some more unique classroom themes teachers have used to transport their kids without leaving school.

[h/t ABC News]

Images courtesy of Kyle Ely.

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How the Rise of Paperback Books Turned To Kill a Mockingbird Into a Literary Classic
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Tim Boyle/Getty Images

If you went to middle or high school in the U.S. in the last few decades, chances are you’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee's now-classic novel (which was adapted into a now-classic film) about racial injustice in the South. Even if you grew up far-removed from Jim Crow laws, you probably still understand its significance; in 2006, British librarians voted it the one book every adult should read before they die. And yet the novel, while considered an instant success, wasn’t always destined for its immense fame, as we learned from the Vox video series Overrated. In fact, its status in the American literary canon has a lot to do with the format in which it was printed.

To Kill a Mockingbird came out in paperback at a time when literary houses were just starting to invest in the format. After its publication in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird was reviewed favorably in The New York Times, but it wasn’t the bestselling novel that year. It was the evolution of paperbacks that helped put it into more hands.

Prior to the 1960s, paperbacks were often kind of trashy, and when literary novels were published in the format, they still featured what Vox calls “sexy covers,” like a softcover edition of The Great Gatsby that featured a shirtless Jay Gatsby on the cover. According to a 1961 article in The New York Times, back in the 1950s, paperbacks were described as “a showcase for the ‘three S’s—sex, sadism, and the smoking gun.’” But then, paperbacks came to schools.

The mass-market paperback for To Kill a Mockingbird came out in 1962. It was cheap, but had stellar credentials, which appealed to teachers. It was a popular, well-reviewed book that earned Lee the Pulitzer Prize. Suddenly, it was in virtually every school and, even half a century later, it still is.

Learn the whole story in the video below from Vox.

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