24 October 2005

Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Mystery and Madness (Atheneum, 2004)

This small collection of four of Edgar Allen Poe's creepy tales is aimed squarely at the tweens and teens set and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers (an imprint of Simon and Shuster's Children's division). The illustrations by Gris Grimly -- pen and ink and with watercolour -- lend a graphic novel feel to Poe's dark, dry wit. Included are abridged texts of "The Black Cat," "The Masque of the Red Death," "Hop Frog" and "The Fall of the House of Usher."

Both "Hop-Frog" and "The Black Cat" were new to me and so the images I hold of those tales will now always be Grimly's -- and that is not a bad thing. As the writer discusses his growing aversion to the cat, listing the many reasons, Grimly counters with exhibits A through F: six smaller illustrations in the sidebars pinpointing each of the reasons the writer hates the cat. The illustrations of the climax of "Hop Frog" are horrific and gruesome without being gory -- Poe fills in the gore nicely, though, fear not. Like the Gorey-illustrated War of the Worlds, the combinaion of Grimly with Poe's text is a near-perfect match. Kudos also to the graphic designers for setting the text in Locarno, a slightly-off-kilter decorative serif font that enhances Grimly's images as much as it embrace's Poe's writing.

If there is a comic-book enthusiast on your Christmas List who might be ready for an introduction to some classic lit, this is a fine option; it would also make a great gift for any self-identified goth, fans of Tim Burton's films, or of course horror enthusiasts.

Buy Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Mystery and Madness illustrated by Gris Grimly.

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