Mishandling Classic Lit for Educational Purposes

By J. Patrick Lewis, Illustrated by Michael Slack

Harcourt Children’s Books 19.99 40 pages

J. Patrick Lewis in Edgar Allan Poe’s Pie: Math Puzzlers in Classic Poems rewrites classic poems to add math problems. For example, “The Raven” has been rewritten to become a puzzler on how to cut a pie into ten equal pieces. Although a clever idea and normally – anything that gets kids to do math should be rewarded – there are a number of problems in the execution.

Artist, Michael Slack’s illustrations of the poems are actually pretty good. It is fun to look at them and Slack deserves a round of applause for his work here. However, the poems themselves need some serious work; it just feels wrong that this classic literature boils down to a word problem. Worse, the rewritten poem beyond meter and rhyme has almost nothing to do with the original, making the adaptation almost a waste for anyone interested in the poem itself, dumbing it down in a ludicrous way and making it hard to read for any audience. This is a book parents need to take a pass on.

Reviewed by Jamais Jochim

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