Books Paranormal and Carnivale Picture Book Challenge 2012 Picture Books Reading Themes Young Adult (YA) Literature

A Love Story with a Bite for Valentine’s Day: Dracula as adapted by Nicky Raven and Illustrated by Anne Yvonne Gilbert

It’s cute that Book Talk Tuesday (as hosted by Kelly Butcher from the Lemme Library) falls on a Valentine’s Day. Happy Hearts Day to everyone! 🙂 It took us quite a while to find the perfect book to feature given the season and our celebration of Paranormal Twists here in GatheringBooks.

Poster courtesy of our treasured Iphigene

And then I figured what better way to spend Valentine’s than to feature the greatest Vampire-love-story of all times – and nope, it isn’t Twilight (at least not in my book), and while I did enjoy Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, it is not that either; and nope, it is not True Blood – I would rather that we begin with the Mother of all Vampire Books: Dracula.

A Morbid Fascination with Creatures of the Night – A few [Paranormal] Twists. I was pleased to discover Nicky Raven’s adaptation of Dracula. I have read Bram Stoker’s version (first published in 1897) when I was a college undergraduate.

While I found it fascinating, it was not an easy read, by most standards. So I found it interesting that Nicky Raven has come up with a more accessible version through this lovely YA book – and with gloriously-haunting illustrations which served to enhance the narrative even further. While the gothic feel of the book remains, there are distinct variations from the original text:

…whilst the primary villain, the malevolent count, is a masterpiece of understated menace, many of the ‘good’ characters, Holmwood and Lucy in particular, lack colour. I shall have them married, and allow them a little happiness and passion. The Harkers, by contrast, I shall marry off later than Stoker, to emphasize their loyalty and patience.

The characterization of Van Helsing and the gypsies are likewise different:

If darkness of this blackest kind is to be vanquished, it must be met with wit and stout hearts. So, to Van Helsing I shall attribute much panache and a little levity – I cannot abide the sour-faced versions of Van Helsing offered to us by so many cinematic renditions of the tale. So too the gypsies; they were a persecuted people, and it is unthinkable they would ally with such as Dracula. I shall have my gypsies loyal and steadfast and an implacable foe to this Prince of Darkness.

My favorite Abraham Van Helsing character of all times - Anthony Hopkins - click on the image to be taken to the websource.

Overall, it presents the reader with a different dimension of the book – the focus is less on Count Dracula himself, but more an exploration of the pure and kind hearts who would later on vanquish the Prince of Darkness. What I personally found lacking though, was … the darkness. The rendering of this illustrated YA novel was skewed more to the light (not that this is a bad thing, it may actually be a welcome relief to most), with very little depiction of

Gary Oldman as Count Dracula is Perfection. Click on the image to be taken to the websource.

Count Dracula himself. On the one hand, it leaves the reader to imagine what fiends and depths of devilry may be seen from within the castle in Transylvania – but for those who may want the luscious romantic darkness offered by the mysterious Count Dracula, there is very little of that found here.

I did enjoy the encounter between Lucy and Count Dracula as the latter was on a cliff’s edge looking out the sea where the latter’s ship was wrecked by the strange storm the night before:

Lucy had been disturbed by the count, but in a curious way she felt herself fascinated by him. He had an aura about him, an undercurrent of persuasiveness, and she’d found him oddly attractive, despite his alien manner. (p. 25)

Raven’s version also included glorious journal entries by Jonathan Harker (portrayed by Keanu Reeves in the Francis Ford Coppola film adaptation) and the written memoirs of Dr. John Seward (portrayed by Richard E. Grant in the film) – and so in that sense, it retained (to a certain degree) the epistolary account of the original novel.

The horrors are more suggested and implied – rather than articulated. Thus, while the mystery that surrounds the undead and the immortal remains intact – the classic morbid fascination that makes me gravitate in a compelling manner towards their kind – I find to be sketchily drawn here – but that may be a deliberate attempt in Nicky Raven’s part, as he has noted in his Introduction.

Vanquishing Vampires. There was one section that I have specifically bookmarked in the novel – apparently this was likewise highlighted by Coppola in his film. It was the part where Abraham Van Helsing talks about the existence of monsters, vampires, the undead in this world that we know (I would not put it past physicists to postulate the existence of parallel universes and worlds that we may not be conscious of at this given time):

“Not all the things your mothers dismissed as fairy stories are untrue. This scientific, progressive world of ours has not yet rid itself of monsters.”

“Monsters?” this from Quincey.

“Yes, monsters,” repeated Van Helsing. “Creatures that stalk in dark places and haunt us when we are sleeping. Do you believe in ghosts, gentlemen?”

The three younger men hesitated, and Seward was the first to speak. “I have heard testimonies from sources I believe I can trust,” said the doctor, “but nothing in my experience teaches me that these things are possible.”

“You think them the imaginative fancy of disordered minds?” Van Helsing stood and looked down at the three of them. “Gentlemen, put aside your skepticism. There are ghosts, there are werewolves, there are vampires. They are real, they are of our time, and they are here, close by, stalking us as we sleep.” (pp. 56-57)

Look at how captivating the illustrations of Anne Yvonne Gilbert are.

I also liked how faith, love, and all those good stuff – did not sound too predictable nor too trite in the narrative. In fact, there is valuing of whatever one believes in as one’s salvation or saving grace – as could be seen here:

“Is that all that protects us? Faith?” interjected Seward, doubt again entering his tone, for he was not a deeply religious man.

“Yes.” Van Helsing’s reply brooked no argument. “But faith takes many forms, John. My faith is in God, and I carry it in my heart and it sustains me. Yours is in your books and learning and allied to your courage it, too, is a strong staff. Jonathan’s faith was in love,” here he glanced at Mina and smiled. “And that is maybe the greatest protector of all.”

Lucy and Mina in the film adaptation of Dracula - click on the image to be taken to the websource.
Lucy and Mina as illustrated by Anne Yvonne Gilbert

What makes Vampire Novels so Strangely Attractive to Young People? And so I shall end this Valentine Vampire Treat with an all-encompassing query. Why is this genre (paranormal, gothic, vampire, whatnot) – so endlessly fascinating to many young people? Is it the eternal love between a mortal and a beast? Is it this gravitational pull towards mysterious, dark, dangerous creatures? Do share your ideas with us, I’d love to know what you think. Enjoy your Valentine, everyone!

About the Author and Illustrator (as found in the book jacket):

Dracula is Nicky Raven’s third book in the Collector’s Classics series, following his spellbinding retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen and his award-winning adaptation of Beowulf. Nicky lives in Greenwich with his partner, Nicky, and their two Siamese cats called Ra and Tut.

Anne Yvonne Gilbert was born in Northumberland, England. She studied at the Newcastle College of Art and the Liverpool College of Art, becoming a freelance illustrator in 1978. Since then, she has worked with many of the major publishing houses, magazines and advertising agencies worldwide. Anne Yvonne has brought her impressive talent to numerous books for children, including the best-selling Pirateology and Wizardology. She now lives and works in Canada with her husband, Dracula designer Danny Nanos.

Dracula. Adapted by Nicky Raven and Illustrated by Anne Yvonne Gilbert. Templar Publishing, 2009. Book borrowed from the community library. Book photos taken by me.

Picture Book Challenge Update: 21 of 120

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

6 comments on “A Love Story with a Bite for Valentine’s Day: Dracula as adapted by Nicky Raven and Illustrated by Anne Yvonne Gilbert

  1. Perhaps the youth are still looking for those monsters under their beds, or in their closets? I think the paranormal worlds you’ve been discussing will always have an allure for there are so many tales told that seem to be from “old wives”, but also have basis in truth. Perhaps the interest of those who are younger may also be connected to liking the uncertain; they are adventurous and feel immortal, thus wish to face these fears knowing they really will be okay. I think I’m just rambling, but when I taught, every year I read Dracula and offered a scary story book group-two choices as a group, or the third was to read some scary book independently. Remember I was teaching gifted 7th & 8th graders. They loved doing both groups. I’m not so sure I would like this book you’ve reviewed, but you’ve given a few redeeming qualities. I didn’t know it existed, so thanks as always for sharing your good books!

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  2. Great book for Valentines Day! I’ll have to look for a copy of this one. I love Dracula!

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  3. Pingback: Carnival of Children’s Literature: A February Round-Up and More «

  4. Thanks for this great coverage of Dracula. It is a book I haven’t read. I will check out the Nicky Raven version to start with. Thanks!

    You mentioned in a comment on my blog that you have not explored many picture books on math. May I suggest checking out sylvan dell publishers. I LOVE their books which are focused on math and science in a way that is both entertaining and educational.

    BTW I love your blog and how it is set up! VERY nice!

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  5. Pingback: List of Circus, Carnivale, Paranormal Themed Books for All Ages «

  6. Pingback: [BHE 183] Singapore Library Warehouse Sale 2015 | Gathering Books

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