Cozy Classics: Mark Twain

Are you ready for adorable? Because these two board books definitely fit the bill!

For anyone who has read my blog for any length of time, you will know that I absolutely love reading the classics. So why not read and enjoy a board book version of some classics?

Cozy Classics: Tom Sawyer and Cozy Classics: Huckleberry Finn by Jack and Holman Wang (Simply Read Books, May 2014) are board book “versions” of the stories illustrated with felt art dolls. Each page has a single word or phrase, such as  or  and the artwork illustrates a scene from the book itself.Continue Reading

Classics for Young Kids

Just a few weeks before my second child, a daughter, was born, I stopped at a bookstore with my son and we bought her a book. It was Pride and Prejudice: A Babylit Counting Primer by Jennifer Adams and Alison Oliver. In just 10 pages, we visited the story of Pride and Prejudice by learning about some of the important countable nouns in it: FIVE sister, TEN thousand pounds. The pictures are modern, and for this particular “primer” the nouns highlighted are lots of fun. Will a baby “get” the plot of the classic novel? No, but it sure is fun for a mama who loves the book!

New to the classics for babies scene is the Cozy Classics series by Jack and Holman Wang (Simply Read Books, 2012). In a similar way, these books share the plot with the youngest people, but these books do with just one word on each page. It’s amazing how they manage to share so much of the story in one word per page! The accompanying pictures are photographs of needle-point felt dolls and scenes. I am not able to sew in anyway so this is very impressive to me too. I read the Pride and Prejudice and the Moby Dick Cosy Classics as digital review copies from the publisher. Does a child need to know “peg leg”? No, but the format is a fun one for the parent who loves the classics!

And then there is a more complete picture book version. I discovered Moby Dick: Chasing the Great White Whale by Eric A. Kimmel and Andrew Glass (Feiwel and Friends, 2012) as a part of the Cybils 2012 fiction picture book judging process. It is a poetic sea shanty retelling of the story of Moby Dick. Anyone who reads my blog knows that I love reading the classics, so I was delighted to see a picture book about a favorite book of mine, although I must admit I was surprised to see Moby Dick, of all classic books, retold in picture book format. The book is so much fun for someone who enjoys Moby Dick. It begins with “Call me Ishmael” and it really does capture the feeling of the book in some respects: the desire to go whaling, the night in the inn with a man with a tattooed head, meeting Captain Ahab, the anticipation of the chase. The illustrations are gorgeous paintings, and one can see the brush strokes in the marvelously rich pages. I really enjoyed seeing the story come to life in the pictures. And yet, there is something odd as a whole about this as a picture book. One of the things I love about Moby Dick is the rich language; so much of my enjoyment of the book depends on the eloquent ponderings of the narrator.

As a whole, the story of Moby Dick is rather gruesome: sailors hunting down a large animal and killing it in a brutal and disgusting way. In the picture book, the language is reduced to a sea shanty rhyme, and the illustrations do the talking. It’s a nice introduction to Moby Dick’s plot but do young children really need the plot? I also took exception to the “moral” added to the end of the picture book. Herman Melville’s creation is certainly not something that ends with a trite moral: it’s far more complicated than the plot suggests, and his purposes in writing it (the “moral” if you will) is something to explore in doctoral length dissertations, not picture books. I don’t believe it was necessary to sum up the book in such a trite way: I believe it detracts from the whole.

In the end, then, I’m rather conflicted about this picture book: I love it since I love the original, but I wonder as to the necessity of it for children. Do we really want to talk about chasing and killing whales with our young ones? Why not wait until children can experience Melville himself?

Note: I received digital review copies of the Cozy Classics books for review consideration.

What Matters in Jane Austen? by John Mullan

What Matters in Jane Austen? by John Mullan (Bloomsbury, 2012) is a literary theory light book for the masses of Austenites around the globe. But I hope that does not scare casual readers away from it, because What Matters in Jane Austen? is full of observations about the novels to help even the most casual of readers fall in love with Austen’s well crafted novels once more.Continue Reading

Begin with the Bard: Shakespeare Reading 2013

In 2012, I enjoyed starting off my year with a Shakespeare reading month. I have decided to go for it again, and I would love to invite other friends to join in!

In January and February 2013, I plan on starting off my 2013 classics reading year with reading books by and about the Bard. I hope to get 6-10 different things read: plays and poetry by William Shakespeare, books about the man or his plays, or adaptations for children. This last year I decided to focus on the Henry VI plays. I really enjoyed them. I am planning on dedicated a month or a month and a half to this project. I’ll read until I get ready for something new!

I have not decided yet what to focus on for his plays, but I do have a few nonfiction books I have had my eye on. In the beginning of January, I’ll post my reading plans, and I’ll invite anyone who wants to join in to do the same.

I’m hoping, somehow, I’ll find a way to make it worth your while if you do join in. A prize, perhaps in the form of books, for one of our participants? I’m still pondering the feasibility of offering a giveaway to you, my friends.

Would you like to join me in starting of with the Bard in January and February 2013?