Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer, by Lisa Pliscou – A Review

Young Jane Austen by Lisa Pliscou 2015 x 200From the desk of Lisa Galek:

Very little has been written about Jane Austen’s life before she started writing at the age of 12. That’s probably because so very little is known about that time. In Young Jane Austen, author Lisa Pliscou focuses on these early years to give us a better understanding of how one of the greatest novelists of all time got her start.

The author begins by letting us know that this particular biography will be a “speculative” one. Since so little is known about Jane Austen’s early years, Lisa Pliscou draws on a wide variety of Austen scholarship to give us a charming portrait of the artist as a young girl. She begins in 1775 with the birth of little Jane—nicknamed Jenny—and takes us up through 1787 when Jane first decides to put pen to paper for the amusement of her family.

Along the way, the author includes short scenes from Austen’s life but presents them in a narrative format. We meet Jane at various moments in her journey—playing with siblings, spending time with her family, lounging in her father’s library, heading off to school with her sister, Cassandra. Each step of the way, the author reflects on what a young Jane Austen might have felt and thought in these moments.

Most Austen biographies I’ve read tend to gloss over Jane’s early years. They focus more on her evolution as a writer and her years as a successful author. The typical Austen biography also tends to be a little more dense and scholarly because it’s just trying to pack so much information into one little volume. But, Young Jane Austen avoids these pitfalls and, as a result, becomes a delightful and infinitely readable story. Continue reading

Sense & Sensibility: Little Miss Austen (BabyLit), by Jennifer Adams – A Review

Sense and Sensibility Babylit Primer by Jennifer Adams 2013 x 250Board books are a brilliant concept. A child’s first book-sized for their little hands printed on cardboard pages that are practically un-rippable, and, it doubles as a teething ring for toddlers. Add to that a Jane Austen theme and you are on your way to creating the next literati in the world.

In 2011, Jennifer Adams introduced us to Pride & Prejudice BabyLit, her first Little Miss Austen board book. It was a big hit. She has now created a cottage industry out of board books inspired by classic literature for very young readers including Jane Eyre, Moby Dick, The Hounds of Baskerville to name a few! Each one is exquisitely illustrated by Allison Oliver and handsomely published by Gibbs Smith, who excel at gift books and illustrated editions.

Sense & Sensibility: Little Miss Austen (BabyLit) is a beautiful package with a clever theme. On the front cover, we find the image of Jane Austen’s two heroines Marianne and Elinor Dashwood. Anyone who has read the original book, or seen any of the popular movie adaptations, will recognize the two divergent sisters and understand the irony that they have been chosen to represent an opposites primer. The fact that Marianne is impulsive and overly-romantic and Elinor stoic and even-tempered will matter not to toddlers or kindergartners. It is the adult that is buying the book. They will connect with the association and want to teach their child about it too. After all, you can never start too early with the education of Janeites.

SandS Little Miss Austen image 2 x 200 SandS Little Miss Austen image 1 x 200

The book has eleven illustrations of opposites helping the child learn the differences between big Norland Park and little Barton Cottage, happy Mr. Willoughby and sad Colonel Brandon and single Marianne and Elinor and then married, symbolically standing on top of their own wedding cakes with their bridegrooms by their side. While the choices in Sense & Sensibility do not relate to the story as directly as they did in the Pride & Prejudice BabyLit counting primer, I still found the illustrations charming and the concept interesting and creative. Continue reading

Pride and Prejudice (Usborne Young Reading Series), Adapted by Susanna Davidson, Illustrations by Simona Bursi – A Review

PandP Usborne 2011 x 200From the desk of Tracy Hickman:

Could you tell the story of Pride and Prejudice in 60 pages and make the world of Regency England come alive for a young reader? I pondered this question before reading the author Susanna Davidson’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s beloved novel. The Usborne Young Reading Series provides young readers with stories adapted from literature classics including works by Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Charlotte Bronte. Pride and Prejudice is a Level Three reader with an intended audience of young readers who are reading independently but are not ready for standard length books. How would a re-working of Austen’s masterpiece of complex social relations fare in this format?

Before I could turn my mind to this question, I was dazzled by the illustrations on the opening pages. Scenes of the Bennet family at Longbourn, Meryton quickly progressed to the Netherfield Ball where Elizabeth breaks her promise never to dance with Mr. Darcy. The soft, muted colors of the ladies’ gowns contrast with the scarlet regimentals of the militia and evening dress of the gentlemen. Earlier, at the Meryton assembly-room, the depiction of the entry of Mr. Bingley’s party is framed with architectural details from the walls and a chandelier hangs above the illustrated figures between the text. These elegant visual touches enliven the entire book. Lady Catherine’s Rosings glows with burnished gold and candlelight. Following Elizabeth’s rejection of Darcy, as she reads his letter, we see a facsimile of the letter above an atmospheric scene of the heroine out of doors. The illustrations evoke the emotion of many memorable scenes from the story. Many readers may note the resemblance of characters to the actors and actresses of the 2005 film adaptation. I particularly enjoyed looking for similarities and differences as I re-read the story.

Happily, the text retains several of my favorite conversations from the original. Mr. Bennet chides his wife about her much-overlooked nerves, “On the contrary, I know them well. They’re my oldest friends. You’ve talked about them for twenty years.” (5) Seated at the piano at Rosings, Elizabeth delivers a restrained but pointed critique of Mr. Darcy’s reticence with strangers, “That is because you do not make the effort. I am not talented at playing the piano, but I have always supposed that to be my fault, for not trying harder.” (29) And finally, the explosive scene between Elizabeth and Lady Catherine that ends with Lady Catherine declaring, “I am most seriously displeased.” (58) Continue reading

Giveaway Winners Announced for Pride & Prejudice: A BabyLit Board Book (Little Miss Austen)

Pride & Prejudice: BabyLit Boad Book (Little Miss Austen), by Jennifer Adams and Allison Oliver (2011)45 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win one of three copies of Pride & Prejudice: A BabyLit Board Book (Little Miss Austen), by Jennifer Adams and Allison Oliver. The winners drawn at random are:

  • Courtney F. who left a comment on August 1st
  • QNPoohbear who left a comment on August 1st
  • LauraLee who left a comment on August 5th

Congratulations ladies! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by August 17th, 2011. Shipment is to US and Canadian addresses only.

A big thank you to author Jennifer Adams for donating the copies of her great new Austen-inspired children’s book Pride & Prejudice: A BabyLit Board Book and to all who left comments.

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Pride & Prejudice: Little Miss Austen (BabyLit), by Jennifer Adams – A Review

Pride & Prejudice: BabyLit Boad Book, by Jennifer Adams (2011)I have read all of Jane Austen works, many biographies, nonfiction, and oodles of sequels —  but an Austen-inspired children’s board book? Whoa! Curious? I was. Don’t ya just love the creativity that our Jane inspires?

When I first heard about Pride & Prejudice: Little Miss Austen (BabyLit) by Jennifer Adams, the same author who wrote the lovely Remarkably Jane: Notable Quotations on Jane Austen, I was quite intrigued. Would this be a retelling of one of my favorite classic novels for very young readers? How would it translate into a children’s counting primer? And, how the heck would I review a children’s book – total virgin territory for me.

Once I had a copy of the book in hand, many of my concerns were immediately dispelled. It was indeed a board book, a small compact cardboard version of a book — easy for a child to hold, unrippable and chewable. (Yes. As a bookseller, I have seen many a toddler stick a board book in their mouth and gnaw on it like a teething ring.) At 22 pages, it was both compact and lightweight, but what will ultimately appeal to parent and child is the total Pride and Prejudice theme that author Jennifer Adams and illustrator Alison Oliver have embraced. From the bright and cheery front cover displaying an image of (one assumes) a wide eyed, and very young Miss Austen, to the 20 clever and striking illustrations inside, I was awed by the choice of characters, Regency clothing and objects used and the ease of the text. Here is an excellent example of Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy as 2 rich gentleman!

Pride & Prejudice: Little Miss Austen, illustration, 2 rich gentlemen

Delightful. Of course no book about P&P could possibly NOT include mention of ball gowns, so here is the beautiful illustration that would make Lydia and Kitty Bennet squee.

Pride & Prejudice: Little Miss Austen, illustration, 9 fancy ball gowns

As we progress through the book, each of the pages also moves through the opening chapters of Pride and Prejudice, ending at 10,000 pounds a year. Jennifer Adams has selected key points and characters admirably. Parents, grandparents and anyone who is an Austen fan will recognize their favorite characters and scenes, and children will be enchanted by the illustrations and the counting theme. Of course this board book format could not be a full retelling of the entire narrative, but it gives the very young reader an introduction to characters, images, and a bit of the story that they can remember when they watch the movie adaptation and later move into the full novel.

Charming, whimsical and historical accurate, Pride & Prejudice: Little Miss Austen, offers the very young reader an early introduction to Jane Austen – planting seeds for her total world take-over!

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Pride & Prejudice: Little Miss Austen (BabyLit), by Jennifer Adams, illustrations by Alison Oliver
Gibbs Smith (2011)
Board Book (22) pages
ISBN: 978-1423622024

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Pride & Prejudice: A BabyLit Board Book (Little Miss Austen) Blog Tour with Jennifer Adams

Pride & Prejudice: BabyLit Boad Book, by Jennifer Adams (2011)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. Continue reading