Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment Adapted Classic: Book Review

Hi everyone! Lauri here today, and I have a really exciting review for you to read. It is an adapted classic. What is that, you’re asking… don’t be shy… I know you are because I did as well. Adapted classics are, in a nutshell, well-known books that have been re-written with simpler language. The genre of the adapted classic captures the passion of the original book, but is written in a simpler manner and infused with well-placed illustrations. In the un-adapted work, the word choices can be quite challenging for younger readers and more often than not, our children become frustrated and stop reading. Still, our children need to be exposed to these famous books, and adapted writings serve as superb introductions to great literature. 

Jerome Tiller has cleverly adapted “Nathaniel Hawthorne’s, Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment,” for middle readers. The book is augmented with intricate pen and ink drawings—illustrator Marc Johnson-Pencook did a marvelous job turning Hawthorne’s words into stunning pictures.
In this updated, adapted version from a story written in the 1800’s, Dr. Heidegger invites four ancient, decrepit friends to his study to aid him in an experiment. His friends, three elderly men and an elderly woman are intrigued, but not expecting anything out of the ordinary. Much to their surprise, however, the experiment involves a cut-glass vase filled with strange and magical water. The doctor drops a dried rose in the vase, and lo and behold, the rose blooms lush and lovely once again! The four friends immediately demand to drink this magical elixir, and within moments they too are regaining their youthful “blooms”.  As Dr. Heidegger’s guests “rejuvenate” and continue to reverse the aging process, they become reckless and irresponsible. A fight ensues and the vase containing the anti-aging elixir is broken. The four friends immediately begin aging, and decide to seek out the source of the water, the fountain of youth in Florida.

Before reviewing Tiller’s adaptation, I re-read the original. Tiller does an astounding job modifying this story. The language is much clearer in the updated version—while lyrical and poetic, Hawthorne’s words are difficult and hard to comprehend at times.  Tiller excels at wading through the flowery language and extracting only the important pieces. Middle grade readers, i.e. children eight to twelve years of age, will really be able to understand and enjoy this book now. Additionally, there are nineteen pages of illustrations that accompany the forty-two pates of text. I highly recommend “Nathaniel Hawthorne’s, Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment.” In fact, I give it five stars.
Jerome Tiller graciously agreed to answer some questions for me about his book. So, on to the author interview!
First, what inspired this book?
My son Paul, then a teenager, was taking art lessons at the Art Academy in St. Paul, Minnesota. The owner of the Academy showed me some pen and ink illustrations by his friend Marc Johnson-Pencook. The artistry of what he showed blew me away. I was reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Twice Told Tales” at the time, and it occurred to me the pictorial quality of Mr. Hawthorne’s stories begged for illustration.  The combination of the two events was the biggest share of the inspiration – other things factored in as well.
When did you start writing?
I started writing mid-life, but in fits and starts. At the age of fifty-five I finally finished something I liked. It was a book for middle-readers that my son Paul illustrated for me.
Why did you begin writing?
I started writing because I liked reading and admired authors and their ability to write well.  Also, when I got into raising a family, I became too responsible to party much anymore, but I still needed something to do apart from my family, at least in fits and starts.
I love the artwork/illustrations in this book… can you tell me more about them?
Marc Johnson-Pencook is an incredibly talented illustrator with virtually no inclination to self-promote.  Consequently, he is an unknown artist of the first rank. Especially since we have now become friends, I would like to rectify that – his talent deserves exposure.  The illustrations in the book are all Marc – I chose the scenes I wanted illustrated, and Marc took it from there. They are Marc’s personal interpretation of the characters and scenes within the overall story. I don’t believe I had him change a thing.
What other books have you published?
One other book so far – “Sammy’s Day at the Fair: The Digestive System, featuring Gut Feelings and Reactions”. It’s a book for middle readers illustrated by my son, Paul.  It combines science with a story to give an overview of the digestive system, with a healthy-living sub-text. Pretty good, we think, but it hasn’t really taken off.  But we haven’t given up on the concept – we are sticking with the concept and will create a series of such books.
Would you like to tell our readers about your WIPs?
Besides the science-story books we seem to never stop working on, we are planning to release the second in a series of illustrated classic stories sometime in Fall 2014. It will be Edgar Allan Poe’s “Thou Art the Man”. I adapted the story for Marc Johnson-Pencook’s illustrations. It is almost completed. We are also working on other stories in the Adapted Classics series that will follow the Poe story.
What do you feel is the easiest part of writing?
The easiest part of writing for me is rewriting.
The hardest?
The hardest part of writing is going forward without stopping to correct myself.
And finally, give me one fun fact about yourself.
I don’t know how to identify myself. To some people – most – I’m Jerry. To other people I am strictly Jerome. Some people seem to like using both the formal Jerome and the informal Jerry. I am 95% legally Jerome, but on my SSN card, I’m Jerry. I always pause before introducing myself.  More fits and starts.
Thanks again to Jerry for taking time out of his busy day to answer my questions… and kudos to him for an excellent book! Seriously, “Nathaniel Hawthorne’s, Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” is a great read. It’s available beginning next Monday, March 31st at “Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” at amazon.com.

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Indie author-friendly freelance editor, children's book blogger for picture books through YA, kid lit, SF/fantasy lover with special fondness for middle grade, pun-loving SCBWI member, meter-maid for poetry and rhyming picture books.

One Comment:

  1. Very interesting story and great interview. I’ll have to go check out the book.
    Nice to meet you, Jerry.

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