Poirot tackles trickiest case

15th June 2007 at 01:00
Can three famed Agatha Christie whodunnits in cartoon form help pupils with their reading?

CERTAIN LITERARY figures are renowned in every primary classroom: Harry Potter, Tracy Beaker and the BFG. To these will now be added the short Belgian detective with a curly moustache and hyperactive "little grey cells".

Next month, three of Agatha Christie's best known stories are to be published in cartoon form. Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile and Murder on the Links all feature the neatly attired Hercule Poirot. They are aimed at the same primary-age audience as that other famous Belgian detective, Tintin.

David Brawn, the British editor of the books, said: "Agatha Christie's books are good puzzles. You learn about her characters through dialogue, not through great big passages of description. So it translates nicely into graphic format. Children soak up her books.

"For young boys and kids who are time-starved, this is a fantastic way of introducing books that are now modern classics."

Teachers and literacy experts are less convinced that the cartoons have a place in primary classrooms. Chris Davis, of the National Primary Headteachers' Association, said: "Reinterpreting classics in this way might be the way to get boys reading. But is Agatha Christie a classic?" He would prefer to see novels such as David Copperfield, Robinson Crusoe or Treasure Island in cartoon form.

Nicholas Tucker, a senior lecturer in culture at Sussex University, said:

"Agatha Christie is the Enid Blyton of the detective world. The impact of a murder is equivalent to a lavatory not working for a day. It's not Dostoevsky.

"She's mannered, with chintzy furniture and country houses. I don't think that says a lot to children. They want to read about someone their own age.

The youngest person in an Agatha Christie is about 40."

The characters in the cartoon novels are all in period costume.

But Barbara Conridge, the primary chair of the National Association for the Teaching of English, believes the books have much to offer contemporary pupils. "Agatha Christie is a classic of her genre," she said. "Yes, the stories are of their time, but so is Dickens.

"These are good stories. And the film versions are on the telly a lot. Now they can access the stories in different ways."

The books will be published by HarperCollins on July 16.

Classic whodrewits Murder on the Orient Express The luxury train, above, is stalled by a snowdrift just after midnight.

Then an American passenger is stabbed 12 times. But Poirot is there I Death on the Nile The tranquillity of a Nile cruise is shattered when one of the passengers, a young, stylish woman, is found shot through the head. But, luckily, Poirot is also on board. A tough case.

Murder on the Links An urgent cry for help brings Poirot to France, but he is too late to save his client, who is stabbed on a golf course. Not long after, a second corpse is discovered, murdered in an identical way I

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