by Sam Juliano
TRUE! –nervous –very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses –not destroyed –not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily –how calmly I can tell you the whole story.
-Edgar Allan Poe
A model of word economy and one of literature’s most celebrated works of psychosis and depravity, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart is probably America’s greatest short story writer’s most famous story of all. It is usually the first one taken up in Junior High classes, and the one that regularly makes its way into literature textbooks. Though it is as macabre as some of the author’s equally venerated stories (most especially The Cask of Amontillado, The Black Cat and The Fall of the House of Usher) it is distinguished by the fact that every word contributes to the purpose of moving the story forward.
Much like several entries in the Roger Corman film series based on Poe’s works, a continuing children’s picture book series by Jennifer Adams and Ron Stucki attributes its creation to the inspiration from the respective work, in this case The Tell-Tale Heart. The new book in the ‘Baby Step’ Lit series, Edgar and the Tattle-Tale Heart is actually a sequel to Edgar Gets Ready For Bed, and it owes just as much to Poe’s iconic poem “The Raven” as it does to the short story. Adams makes no bones that her book is aimed at the pre-K set and is intended to teach a valuable life’s lesson while affording its juvenile readers their very first introduction to a writer they will be examining later in the more advanced grades. Edgar and the Tattle-Tale Heart doesn’t overdo the Poe references, rather it throws out a few characters that makes the connection with the literary counterparts, with the goal of developing in the readers and interest in literature at the earliest age. (more…)