Please join us today in welcoming author Jennifer Adams for the official launch of her book blog tour of Pride & Prejudice: A BabyLit Board Book (Little Miss Austen), a new children’s board book inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that is releasing today by Gibbs Smith Publisher.
Hi Laurel Ann. Thanks for asking me to blog about my new book, Pride & Prejudice: A BabyLit Board Book. The idea for doing a baby book on the classics came one day when I was talking to my editor, Suzanne Taylor, creative director for Gibbs Smith, Publisher. We were talking about mash-ups and different books and the funky things people do with the classics. Suzanne and I are both in the book industry and always looking for new, clever ideas. She knows I love the classics, and Jane Austen in particular, and the idea for Little Miss Austen just struck her, she says, “like lightning.”
I wrote many different versions of the manuscript before we settled on making this a counting primer. It is a lot more difficult than one might think to take the beloved novel and condense it into a mere twenty words! You’ve got to get the tone and flavor of the book, capture its essence, but also make it for babies and toddlers, which is a completely different audience of course. It looks deceptively simple when you see the finished book, but creating it is actually quite a complex project.
People have had strong opinions about this book and the BabyLit series, both adamantly for and against it. We’ve had complaints that you can’t possibly have Romeo and Juliet as a baby book, because it is so serious and ends badly. We ended our book with “parting is such sweet sorrow” and ten little bird “couples” kissing each other goodnight. A perfect ending for giving your baby ten kisses when you’re tucking her into bed! With Pride and Prejudice, one of our sales reps said that we should say “two men” not “two rich gentlemen” because gentlemen is a multisyllabic word and not appropriate for babies. But if you don’t say “rich gentlemen” you are losing everything about it that is Austen! One thing that came together really nicely with these books is that we were passionate about them and followed our vision. We didn’t let them get changed by committee or dumbed down. And the overwhelmingly positive response and sales indicate we did the right thing.
The illustrator for this book is central to its success. We’d been working with Alison Oliver of Sugar Design (pure-sugar.com) as a book designer on some other projects. We knew she did illustration as well, so Suzanne decided to give her a try. When the first sketches came in we were absolutely blown away! Alison has this perfect combination of sweetness and sophistication in her work and we knew we had hit it on the head with these illustrations. It didn’t hurt that she is a huge Jane Austen fan herself. When I saw the spread for 2 rich gentlemen with Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley I kind of went berserk I was so excited about it. Alison made me a print of that illustration and signed it. I framed it and have it hanging in my house. We’re actually looking at making a doll from that Mr. Darcy illustration, which I think would be incredibly fun as well.
I think the thing that makes me happiest about this project is sharing something I love so much—Jane Austen, Lizzy Bennet’s story, Mr. Darcy—in a whole new way to a whole new generation of readers. The idea that these books might help the little ones who read them grow up to love and read Jane Austen and have their lives enriched by her the way mine has been—well, it is very satisfying.
Jennifer Adams is the author of a dozen books including Remarkably Jane: Notable Quotations on Jane Austen and the newly released Little Miss Austen: Pride and Prejudice, part of the BabyLit series. Her book Little Master Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet, also a BabyLit book, has been nominated as one of Parents magazine’s best children’s books of 2011. Jennifer works as a senior editor at Gibbs Smith, Publisher, where she edits cookbooks, children’s books, architecture and interior design, and gift books. Her favorite place to travel is England and her favorite baby name is Fitzwilliam. Visit Jennifer at her website Word Musings, and on Twitter as @jengrillone.
Pride & Prejudice: A BabyLit Board Book (Little Miss Austen), by Jennifer Adams, illustrated by Allison Oliver
Gibbs Smith (2011)
Board book (22) pages
Cover image, book description, guest blog, & author bio courtesy of Gibbs Smith © 2011; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2011, Austenprose.com