When we open a classical novel, we open the door to multiple worlds (historical, geographical, literary, psychological and philosophical) to explore. It is exciting to see what each title means to us, who the author is, how the books were created and how they can be used to develop our students’ knowledge of language and culture.
Let’s take a look at our five new classic reader adaptations. Then tune in later in the year for a lesson based on each book. The titles are:
- Five Children and It by Edith Nesbit. Level 1 reader, adapted by Jennifer Gascoigne, illustrated by Viola Niccolai.
- Sherlock Holmes and the Stolen Jewels by Arthur Conan Doyle. Level 2 reader, adapted by Geraldine Sweeney, illustrated by Agilulfo Russo.
- Uncle Tom’s Cabin written by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Level 3 reader, adapted by Donatella Velluti, illustrated by Michele Rocchetti.
- The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad. Level 4 reader, adapted by Donatella Velluti, illustrated by Claudia Palmarucci.
- Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Level 5 reader, adapted by Elspeth Rawstron, illustrated by Sara Menetti.
1 Who is the author?
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1859. He worked as a doctor until 1891 but he had a passion for writing stories. In 1891 he decided to become a full-time writer. His first novel was called A Study in Scarlet. He then wrote a collection of short stories called The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, which were published in instalments by The Strand Magazine. Conan Doyle wrote 56 Sherlock Holmes stories in total. One of the most famous and popular is ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’. Conan Doyle died in 1930. Sherlock Holmes’ fictional house in Baker Street is now a museum.
2 What do we need to know about the stories?
The stories in this reader, ‘The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle’ and ‘The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet’ were among the stories published in The Strand Magazine in 1892. Both stories talk about the theme of jewels: the blue carbuncle is a famous diamond, and the beryl coronet is a gold crown with thirty-nine beryls, or precious stones.
Both stories take place in or near London in winter, when there is snow on the ground. ‘The Blue Carbuncle’ takes place in the centre of London, while most of ‘The Beryl Coronet’ takes place in a banker’s house in Streatham, in the countryside outside London.
In both stories jewels are stolen. The thieves don’t care if the police arrest other people for their crimes. In ‘The Blue Carbuncle’ a doorman finds a precious diamond inside his Christmas goose. In the story we meet a collection of characters including a stallholder at Covent Garden Market, a hotel manager, a doorman and a plumber. In ‘The Beryl Coronet’, we meet Alexander Holder, a very rich banker, who gives £50,000 to a member of the British royal family (who remains unnamed throughout the story) in return for the Beryl Coronet. Mr Holder’s son Arthur is in a club for rich young men, where he meets his dangerous friend Sir George Burnwell. Only Sherlock Holmes can solve both mysteries.
3 Why did we choose this title for adaptation?
Elementary, my dear reader! 🙂 There is always great demand for Sherlock Holmes stories, and no wonder. For starters, he is the only detective who solves crimes for the sheer intellectual pleasure of it and is totally disinterested in money or fame. And they are perfect for young people learning a new language as they can apply Holmes’ observation skills to the new words they are learning. Plus there is always the satisfaction of being one step ahead of Dr Watson, Holmes’ loyal friend.
4 How can you use this reader for language learning?
CLIL and discussion topics
- Explore London – learn about the city and the centre
- Explore the countryside around the city
- Talk about London in the 19th century and today
- Describe the characters’ physical appearance and jobs
- Describe the characters’s personalities
- Learn about precious stones and jewellery
- The language of descriptions
- Deduction, problem solving
- Narrative tenses
Connecting fiction and film
Your students will probably be familiar with the characters and stories through the TV series and films they have seen, as the Sherlock Holmes stories have been adapted many times for the screen. Choose either the BBC Series ‘Sherlock’ created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman or the film ‘Sherlock’ (2009) directed by Guy Ritchie with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law as the leading actors.
If you would like to introduce the idea of Sherlock Holmes and discuss detective stories, describe the characters, establish the relationship between them and explore the scenes, we recommend starting with the film trailers. Then, you can move on to the exercises before the text in the readers. When the students have read the text and seen the film, you can compare their experiences and reflect on their expectations and the differences between the two genres (film and written fiction).
5 How did we create the reader?
The original text of the novel was simplified for elementary level learners, avoiding complex grammar and sentence structures and minor plot strands that may lead to confusion. The vocabulary is only simplified as much as it is necessary to make it comprehensible for language learners at this stage.
The story was adapted by Geraldine Sweeney and illustrated by Agilulfo Russo. Factfiles and vocabulary and testing pages are by Gianfranco Martorano.
Here you can find more resources to learn about the Sherlock Holmes stories and London.
- Interactive Virtual Field Trip to the Sherlock Holmes Exhibition in London
- Detective Stories Special: Sherlock Holmes, Meet Richard MacAndrew, Book Lists
- Projects for The Boscombe Valley Mystery
Here is a simple chart about our reading levels.