I’ve been on an amazing adventure since my baby girl was born in July, and though there hasn’t been much time for the usual Austen-related book reading let alone reviewing, I have recently read four Austen-related books designed for babies and have some thoughts to share.
Pride and Prejudice Cozy Classics by Jack and Holman Wang: 12 words and 12 pictures of felt characters to go with it. They do manage, I was surprised, to convey the basic story. It is rather a dull read for an adult, but that’s not the point of these books.
Little Miss Austen Sense and Sensibility: An opposites primer by Jennifer Adams with art by Alison Oliver: so this one is upfront that it is about opposites, not really about any story in particular. Thus, Empty and Full pages, one with an empty henhouse and one with a full one, need not bear any connection to the Austen tale. But maybe, since I wanted to introduce the little one to Austen, they should? Some pairs do (Big=Norland Park, Little=Barton Cottage). Why not all? I also thought it strange that the spoiler (Single and Married, with the names on the cakes) was not last, but the non-specific Day and Night were. Was the logic that this is a bedtime story? That everything ends with night? That parents of new babies are too exhausted to notice?
Little Miss Austen Pride and Prejudice: a counting primer by Jennifer Adams with art by Alison Oliver: same concerns as in the previous review that some pages are relevant to the original book (“2 rich gentlemen”) while others just aren’t (“6 horses”). Why? Pictures are cute, and the spoiler comes on the fourth page. This one comes with an optional playset with pieces from the story that stand up (pop out of thick paper), and I think we’ll have fun with this when she’s ready for it.
Goodnight Mr. Darcy by Kate Coombs and illustrated by Alli Arnold: Very clever. It takes the original story (Goodnight Moon, that is, not Pride and Prejudice) and parodies it on every page. Everything from the first page—“In the great ballroom there was a country dance and a well-played tune and Elizabeth Bennet—“ to the father saying “hush”—reminds me adorably of the classic my brother and I loved as kids (which I have in various forms for my sweetie, too). The color schemes, the rhymes, and the repetition are all delightfully parodied here, and people who know Goodnight Moon (so, everyone) will really appreciate this take on it. It also has many details from the Austen story (ex: “Mr. Darcy surprised by a pair of fine eyes”), and I was only slightly annoyed that the end spoiled “Goodnight Elizabeth Goodnight bride.” Does no one else want their kids to be surprised the first time they read the real Pride and Prejudice? Do we assume they already know? I didn’t know when I read it.
So this is what I have been reading lately—and I have never been happier.