#ClassicLitSeries: The Three Musketeers
All for one story, and five versions for all!
I wanted to start the #ClassicLitSeries as a way to get the whole family involved in reading one of the greats. Of course, a lot of the classics are too heavy and dense for kids but I love that there are so many great adaptations with beautiful illustrations entirely geared toward children. It’s even a wonderful “cheat read” for adults who may not have the time or energy to absorb the classics at their, well, most classical. And The Three Musketeers, written by Alexandre Dumas, is an incredibly fun, thrilling read that will delight kids and adults alike. This swashbuckling adventure will have kids yelling “En garde!” and, of course, the famous refrain: “All for one, and one for all!”
Before we get to the recommendations, I’d love to get to know you better! What are the ages of your kids? Leave a comment below.
And now, allons-y (PSA: buckle up for my meager français-isms)!
For the babies and toddlers
Little Classics: The Three Musketeers
Adapted by: Azad Injejikian
Recommended Ages: 3-5 years old
This little book tells the very beginning of the story: how d’Artagnan gets to know Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, or the Three Musketeers. It avoids the topsy-turvy, thrilling roller coaster ride that is the original book which, in this case, is a good thing. Much of the original’s plot twists would be too overwhelming for kids this age. It also completely bypasses the romance and affairs in the novel making it much more age-appropriate. By focusing on friendship, this adaptation is able to tell a complete story of how d’Artagnan was accepted into the fold by the three musketeers and became, unofficially, the fourth musketeer. The illustrations are cartoon artwork and, to be honest, not particularly imaginative. They are certainly engaging and will help a child keep track of the story. Overall, I think this version is suitable for a toddler who enjoys reading and may already be moving up to books for older readers. The story is simple but the text is still fairly dense. This book is very affordable ($3-$5 USD) so it may be an inexpensive way to get the youngest members of the group involved in reading if you choose to read it together. However, I would probably not recommend spending more than $5 on this book.
Links to buy: Amazon
For the little kids
10 Minute Classics: The Three Musketeers
Adapted by: Philip Edwards | Illustrated by: Adam Horsepool
Recommended Ages: 5-8 years
The story begins by letting the reader know exactly who the musketeers were and how prestigious this group of soldiers was in 16th-century France. It’s a smart move because, without reading the whole novel, it’s difficult to comprehend what a fortune-changing event it would be for d’Artagnan, a country boy, to become one of the king’s guards. Like the Little Classics version reviewed above (for babies and toddlers), this version also focuses on d’Artagnan’s introduction to the Three Musketeers and how their friendship develops. If you have a kids in this age range and the baby / toddler age ranges you may opt to read this one to them together. However, if your kids prefer their own books, it might be fun to have them read the same version of the story. I will add that the illustrations in this book are très magnifique. The artwork is detailed, lush, and moody and will transport you straight to 16th-century France. In one of my favorite scenes (second image in the gallery), you can almost feel the stones and pebbles underneath your feet as you duel with a French manor at your back.
Links to buy: BookOutlet
Classic Stories: The Three Musketeers
Adapted by: Saviour Pirotta | Illustrated by: John Manders
Recommended Ages: 6-9 years
This adaptation is a fairly complete retelling of the original work. The plot in Dumas’ story actually kicks off after d’Artagnan has befriended the Three Musketeers and gets sucked into court politics. This adaptation narrates the pivotal points of the original in a kid-friendly way; that being said, sometimes the plot transitions are a bit clunky. Kids won’t notice this but if you’re a fan of the story, they might be glaringly obvious to you. The story also glosses over the romance and infidelity; a keen reader might ask why the queen gave her jewels to the Duke of Buckingham but I think it would be easy to explain away. Overall, this is a strong retelling that captures the spirit of the Three Musketeers replete with beautiful pencil drawings and gouache paintwork. The Three Musketeers has many characters and one of my concerns was how kids would be able to keep track of them all. I appreciate that Manders, the illustrator, took great pains to make each character distinct in appearance. It will be easy for kids to identify the characters and follow along with the story.
Links to buy: Amazon
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For the big kids
In the big kid adaptations, we are finally introduced to Milady, aka Lady de Winter, the true villainess of The Three Musketeers. These versions also introduce romance and intrigue which are key drivers of the plot in the original work.
The Three Musketeers: A Graphic Novel
Retold by: L. R. Stahlberg | Illustrated by: Eva Cabrera
Recommended Ages: 9-12 years
Perfect for comic book and graphic novel fans, this version is a quick, easy read but thorough in capturing the important plot points. There are character deaths and references to infidelity (the queen and Duke of Buckingham; d’Artagnan and Constance) but these are not covered in-depth and are pit stops in the journey of the story. Unlike the versions in the earlier two age groups, this version is of course still centered on d’Artagnan but you also get to better understand the personalities and motivations of the individual musketeers, Cardinal Richelieu, and Lady de Winter. Because of that, there’s also much more satisfaction in how the story builds and crescendoes as it reaches its whirlwind conclusion. Some of the details I especially appreciated about this book were the introduction to Dumas’ characters and the historical relevance of the story. At the end of the book, there are several pages outlining reading questions for kids to consider as they process the story.
Links to buy: Amazon
Dorling Kindersley Classics: The Three Musketeers
Retold by: Michael Leitch | Illustrated by: Victor Ambrus
Recommended Ages: 10-13 years
This illustrated chapter book not only stays true to Dumas’ story but provides a lot of context to a pretty turbulent time in France’s histoire. The book first begins with an introduction to France, background on the political climate, and a map highlighting the locations the reader will visit in The Three Musketeers. Then follows an overview of what a musketeer was, who became one, and what the role entailed. If you have a kid who’s interested in history, this will be a great place to start. However, if you have a kid who wants to jump straight into the story, these serve as good reference pages to come back to if you want to map out where the characters are traveling or get a bit more understanding of the political intrigue. While there are quaint pencil and watercolor drawings interspersed throughout the chapters to illustrate key moments, the story is laid out in a chapter book format and each chapter is a couple of pages long. Little factoids are annotated in the margins with historical photographs but these can easily be overlooked if the reader really just wants to focus on the story. While the story alludes to infidelity and sex more transparently than all the other versions, it’s still subtle enough that a young reader won’t realize or focus on it. That being said, a more mature reader may pick up on the nuance. The most “explicit” reference to sex in the book:
She had decided to receive her lover, de Wardes, in darkness. Shortly before eleven o’clock d’Artagnan entered her room. Some hours later, as d’Artagnan took his leave, Milady said in her softest voice, “I am so happy that you love me, Count. I love you, too. Take this as a token of my feelings.” And she gave d’Artagnan a magnificent ring, a sapphire surrounded by diamonds.
This adaptation is also more bloodthirsty than the other ones, being much more transparent with what Milady’s punishment entailed:
As the men fell to their knees and prayed, they saw Milady crouched on the far bank. The executioner’s sword rose, moonlight glinting on its blade. Then it flashed downward.
Although much more advanced than the previous retellings, there’s also a more satisfying fulfillment in reading this story as you witness the comeuppance of the cardinal and the defeat of Milady. I would recommend this to an older reader who can keep pace with the fast turn of events and the assortment of characters.
Links to buy: Amazon
Voilà! I hope you and your kids loved getting to spend some time with d’Artagnan and his three musketeers. Hopefully this results in some friendly pretend-play swordfighting :) If you’re interested in more classic literature posts, check out my post on Pride and Prejudice:
On a completely separate note, I’d love to get to know you better! What are the ages of your kids? Leave a comment below!
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