My Baby Reads Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice: A Counting Primer
Written by: Jennifer Adams & Illustrated By: Allison Oliver
"A lady must think carefully before choosing a man."
      In case you are reading this blog for the sole purpose of cyber-punching me in the face, let me begin by clarifying that my baby doesn’t really read Jane Austen.  And if you are reading this blog because you are looking for tips on how to get your five-month-old to read Jane Austen, stop.  Shame on you.  Let that kid enjoy a few more months of slobbering on herself and pooping in public without humility before using her to make the rest of us feel like Neanderthals. 
     This week, Little A and I have been enjoying the baby board book Pride and Prejudice: A Counting Primer (with a clever nod to Little Miss Austen).  It is just one of a collection of classics available in baby portions via the BabyLit series from Gibbs Smith Publishers.  Others in the series include Moby Dick: An Ocean Primer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: A Camping Primer, Anna Karenina: A Fashion Primer, and Wuthering Heights: A Weather Primer. 

Being the bibliophile that I am, I must profess my love for this series.  While we currently only own two of the books in the collection, I hope to one day own them all.  Parents who read regularly with their children can probably relate to the mind-numbing I-Want-to-Scratch-My-Eyeballs-Out daze that settles over one after reading a particularly banal children’s book for the seven billionth time.  When I was a kid, one of my favorite books to check out from the library was called New Blue Shoes, and the extent of the plotline was literally a little girl who needed new shoes, wanted blue shoes, bought blue shoes, and went home.  Something about it really spoke to me: maybe my future penchant for a good pair of shoes or the especially pleasing shade of blue of her new shoes.  I don’t know.  Actually, upon Googling that book, I see it is now something of an out of print cult classic.  Go figure.  Now I kind of want to read it again. 

But I digress. 

My point is that my poor mother had to read that book with me over and over and over again when I was a youngster, vainly hoping that maybe just once something surprising would happen—the little girl would instead settle on a nice pair of brown penny loafers or get hit by a bus—but it was always the same.  What I enjoy about the BabyLit books is that there are novels of possibilities contained between Allison Oliver's whimsically illustrated pages.  While the book may simply prompt Little A and me to count English villages, ball gowns and marriage proposals, I can embellish with my personal insights into Lizzy and Mr. Darcy.  The illustrations offer brilliant windows into the world of the book, with occasionally humorous pokes at the characters.  The concepts behind the books sometimes touch on complex characteristics of the originals (let’s face it; the weather really is a character in Wuthering Heights).  Best of all, the most horrifying elements from the original stories are absent.  In Anna Karenina: A Fashion Primer, no one tosses herself in front of a speeding train, and the lovely protagonist goes on to wear fashionable hats in perpetuity.

            Whether you are looking for something creative to give to the child of book lovers or simply a collector of quirky literary finds, the BabyLit series is sure to delight.  The books are so beautiful, they look stunning simply sitting on display on a prominent bookshelf.  These board books may be the closest I come to reading anything literary between now and when Little A goes off to college.  So I can at least guarantee a rudimentary understanding of the various plotlines as conveyed through fifty-eight words or less.  And that is something.  

Sometimes the photo shoot goes off the rails.


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