“If you look through the window of this house,” the author begins, “you can see the two of them [Charlotte and Anne] there, sitting at the table.”
In this way, Sara O’Leary immerses the reader into the isolated and yet creative childhood of Charlotte, Bramwell, Emily, and Anne Brontë in The Little Books of the Little Brontës by Sara O’Leary (illustrated by Briony May Smith; Tundra Books, October 2023). The friendly and familiar second person tone in the present tense gives the picture book feel like historical fiction rather than a nonfiction biography, and these children immediately become creative inspirations for a young child.
An illustration from above shows the lonely family (four children and a father) at a dinner table, empty seats prominent to show the sadness of losing two sisters and a mother in the course of a year. But the book does not dwell on the sadness and tragedy of their lives, or on the wild emptiness of the moors. Rather, the text and illustrations emphasize the beauties of a creative childhood. The illustrations show light emanating from the little book created by Charlotte for Anne, and shadows on the wall have changed into parapets, dragons, and knights. The moors are a beautiful land to explore, and the smiles on the children’s faces make up for their tragedies. Details in the illustrations show the era in which they lived “many years before you were born.”
As the title suggests, the book emphasize the “little books” that the children make together to record their special stories. The author’s note at the end continues the familiar second person tone with instructions on how to make a personal “little book” oneself, and a family history timeline shows the timeframe of their short lives.
I’ve always love Jane Eyre, thanks to the discerning suggestion of my 8th grade teacher. I was not familiar with the Brontë family’s mini-books, and I would love to learn more. Maybe it’s time to read Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Life of Charlotte Brontë.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advance review copy of this book provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.