CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 21. . . .June 13, 2008
Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Alan Grant, reteller. Illustrated by Cam Kennedy.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2008.
48 pp., pbk., $12.99.
Grades 6 and up / Ages 11 and up.
Review by Ann Ketcheson.
Once again author Alan Grant and illustrator Cam Kennedy have teamed up to produce a graphic novel version of a Robert Louis Stevenson classic. The book follows the essential details of the plot and includes the pivotal characters: Mr. Utterson notices some strange behaviour from his old friend, Dr. Jekyll, and goes so far as to check out Jekyll's will which leaves his entire estate to a Mr. Edward Hyde. When Utterson meets Hyde, he dislikes the man intensely, but Jekyll insists that the provisions in the will must be followed. Almost a year later, Hyde is implicated in a murder, and Utterson is even more determined to protect his old friend. More suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of Dr. Lanyon, a mutual friend, prompt Utterson to visit Jekyll once again, and his appearance is so horribly transformed when seen at the window that eventually Utterson and Jekyll's servant, Mr. Poole, break into the doctor's laboratory, only to find Hyde's dead body dressed in Jekyll's clothing. Eventually, Utterson reads Jekyll's statement about his experiment which separates his personality into its two distinct sides: good and evil. Rather than risking that the evil Hyde might take over, Jekyll chooses to kill himself.
Grant has kept to the original plot of the novel as much as possible, and most of the words are, in fact, those of Robert Louis Stevenson. However, just as the original story is convoluted and somewhat confusing, so, too, is the graphic version. The fact that it is told from various points of view adds to the difficulty. This is where Kennedy's illustrations come in. They help to fill in many details not included in the narrative and clearly depict the various characters, in particular the seemingly pleasant and ordinary Dr. Jekyll versus the monstrous, hideous Mr. Hyde. Action scenes, such as the attack on the young girl early in the book and the Carew murder later on, have a very real quality, typical of the superheroes found in many comic books. Facial expressions are detailed enough to enhance the plot, and the clothing and surroundings vividly depict both the setting of London and the appropriate historical era.
The graphic novel genre will appeal to young readers familiar with film, television and video games, giving this new audience a well-known classic story in a format to which they can easily relate. The terrifying and horrific details of the plot have as much appeal now as they did in 1885 when this thriller was written! The classic conflict of good vs. evil is encountered frequently in various media. It is refreshing to see a classic adapted in a way which young people can appreciate without compromising its essentials of language, setting and character.
As educators, one of our tasks is to encourage reading by providing interesting and entertaining books for a variety of ages and stages. Books that contain classic truths about the human condition are essential, and, when presented in an appealing format, it is that much easier to promote them with young readers.
Ann Ketcheson is a retired teacher-librarian and high school teacher of English and French who lives in Ottawa, ON. She has turned her love of travel into a new career as a travel consultant.
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