Jane Austen Illustrators

Jane Austen Illustrators: Ann Kronheimer

Image of banner of covers of Austen Retold, by Gill Tavner, Real Reads, (2008)

 “It is very pretty,” said Mr. Woodhouse.”So prettily done! Just as your drawings always are, my dear. I do not know any body who draws so well as you do. The only thing I do not thoroughly like is, that she seems to be sitting out of doors, with only a little shawl over her shoulders — and it makes one think she must catch cold.”  Mr. Woodhouse, Emma, Chapter 6



Last week was the official launch at the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England of the six new Jane Austen novels retold for young readers published by Real Reads. The author Gill Tavner shared her thoughts on the writing process with us last week in this interview, and now the illustrator Ann Kronheimer has offered her insights on her interpretations of Jane Austen’s characters and scenes for young readers.

The six novels; Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion all contain over 30 illustrations each of characters, scenes and flourishes of historical objects such as bonnets, bouquets, fans, and books.

Ms. Kronheimer studied Fine Arts and then began as an illustrator with Puffin for authors Dick King-Smith, and Linda Chapman’s My Secret Unicorn and Unicorn School series.  These were in black and white, so when John Button the publisher of Real Reads first approached her explaining the idea behind the Jane Austen series, the fact that they would be in full colour was very exciting for her.

Illustration by Ann Kronheimer, Pride & Prejudice, Real Reads, (2008)

Elizabeth Bennet & Caroline Bingley in Pride and Prejudice

“As always, the challenge that comes with the territory of being an illustrator is having to draw, “not a lot going on”. Lots of chatting over a cup of tea and standing around formally, trying to make it look dynamic and interesting.  I enjoyed adding background detail from period sourcebooks and a gorgeous book called Regency Style. I also watched the films and noted how many times the same piece of furniture turned up, not only within one film in different houses, but also in other films.”

Illustration by Ann Kronheimer, Mansfield Park, Real Reads, (2008)
Mary Crawford, Edmund Bertram & Fanny Price in Mansfield Park

“I was working to a very tight brief. I was sent Gill Tavner’s text and a list of illustrations. As there are so many illustrations per book, if I had been able to choose what to illustrate it would probably have been pretty much the same as her list.  I produced pencil roughs first which I emailed over. The designer then laid them out on the page with the text and Gill and the others would check them through before I then went on to the colour artwork. Gill, also rather brilliantly, had pulled together all the descriptive passages or sometimes just words, on each of the characters to help me visualize them.”

Illustration by Ann Kronheimer, Northanger Abbey, Real Reads, (2008)

Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey

“I enjoy trying to convey character, demeanor and mood. I seem to have made rather a lot of use of eyebrows, and I think I got better at it as the books went along. If Jane Austen had written another few books maybe I would have got it down to a tee!”

Illustration by Ann Kronheimer, Sense & Sensibility, Real Reads, (2008)     Illustration by Ann Kronheimer, Sense & Sensibility, Real Reads, (2008) 

Left) Col. Brandon, Sir John Middleton, Mrs. Jennings & Elinor Dashwood;
 Right) Marianne Dashwood & Mr. Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility 

“Emma is not only my favourite book, but she was also my favourite person to draw. I could imagine her as beautiful and elegant, and, as she is well off, wearing lots of different dresses, but also, full of character. I feel there is more humour about her than the other heroines and I like that she creates mischief and heartache, refusing to listen to good advice, convinced that her meddling is right and proper. All that and she is still charming and irresistible.”

Illustration by Ann Kronheimer, Emma, Real Reads, (2008)

Mr. Elton & Emma Woodhouse in Emma
“One of the best things that came out of this job was discovering the work of C. E. and H. M. Brock. I especially love their tinted line drawings. I admire the amount of detail they include without any fuss and crosshatching and the flat colour makes the drawings look quite modern and graphic.One thing the Brocks had that I envied was a collection of Georgian costumes and furniture and a supply of relatives willing to stand and pose.  I was armed with a digital camera and a husband tired after work.”

Illustration by Ann Kronheimer, Persuasion, Real Reads, (2008)

The Cobb scene in Persuasion

“I was also inspired by Hugh Thomson’s wonderful drawings for Emma and Northanger Abbey, and I referred to them a lot.  I definitely am inspired to carry on illustrating Jane Austen’s work on a larger scale and allowing myself more time.”

End of interview

Image of the Cover of The Golden GooseThanks Ms. Kronheimer. It is always exciting to see Jane Austen interpreted for a new generation. Like her fellow artist that preceded her, she has infused Austen’s wit and pathos into her drawings and enhanced our enjoyment of her fine stories.

Jane Austen Inspired

Jane Austen Retold: Reaching Young Readers, Part Two

Image of banner of covers of Austen Retold, by Gill Tavner, Real Reads, (2008) 

“They have both,” said she, “been deceived, I dare say, in some way or other, of which we can form no idea. Interested people have perhaps misrepresented each to the other. It is, in short, impossible for us to conjecture the causes or circumstances which may have alienated them, without actual blame on either side.” Jane Bennet Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 17



Welcome to the continuation of the on-line interview of Gill Tavner, author of Real Reads six new editions of Jane Austen’s novels retold for a young readers. You can read my introduction and the first part of the interview here.

Image of author Gill TavnerWhat were your challenges as a writer to interpret Jane Austen’s story lines, characters and intentions?

“An obvious problem with them all was length. Jane Austen allows her characters to reveal themselves gradually by the things they say and do. I had only 5,000 words within which I had to do so much. I hope that I echoed Jane Austen’s technique in this, but I occasionally had to offer a little more explicit guidance to the reader.”

Jane Austen touches upon many aspects of human foibles and faults. How did you deal with the adult themes and social humour?

“In order to convey the all-important social humour, I had to be very selective about which moments to highlight and the degree of understanding that would be necessary for the reader to understand the point. It was important, for example, that Emma’s hurtful comment to Miss Bates should be understood as the moment is crucial in the heroine’s development. This meant that certain facts about the relative status of the two had to be understood, which meant a degree of explanation was necessary. The humour of this moment is in the painful discomfort it causes. All very tricky, and all a very enjoyable intellectual process.”

Tell me about the research and writing process for you. How long did it take you complete each book?

“For each book, I followed a very similar, if not identical process. I first of all read through it fairly quickly in order to propose to John how I might approach retelling it. I then reread it making very careful notes as I did so. This took about a week. I made many of my decisions during this part of the process.

I then spent a couple of days reading Jane Austen research, commentaries etc. This was primarily to ensure that I hadn’t overlooked an important theme or aspect of somebodies character.

With constant reference to my notes, I wrote my version. This took another week. The editing, illustrating etc created in total about another week’s work for me.”

Image of the cover of Sense and Sensibility Retold, by Gill Tavner, Real Reads, (2008)What was the process of working with the illustrator Ann Kronheimer? Did you suggest certain passages or sections to feature?

“Working with Ann has been a delight! Once the editing process was underway, I sent Ann a list of illustrations. I tried to choose scenes that would highlight an important incident, aid understanding of the text or even provide some information that I had had to omit in the interest of economy of words. An example of the last of these is a picture of Pemberley. I felt it was important that readers should understand the grandeur of Mr Darcy’s home.

Ann’s pictures astonished me. From my tiny piece of information she created the picture that was in my mind – but better than I had imagined it. I love her drawings and think her use of colour is wonderful and original.”

What is the most positive and negative outcome for you as a writer in this project?

“The most positive outcome is that I loved every minute of it and I think we have achieved our aim. Several friends’ children on whom I have tried out the books then went on to read an original Jane Austen.

As for negative outcomes, encountering strong opinions against this process has occasionally been hard, and has led me to question it myself. The only argument I have read that really troubled me was that I might actually put somebody off the original. The person who made this comment had not seen my books. I would hope that the eventual balance will be more in favour of the number of people I lead to the originals.”

Image of author Gill Tavner

Who is your favourite Jane Austen character and why?


“What a difficult question. Who would I most like to be? Who would I most like to marry? Who amuses me the most? The creation of which character do I most admire in Jane Austen? Shall I answer them all?

I’m sure that the majority of Jane Austen’s female admirers like to think of ourselves as the spirited Elizabeth Bennet. I enjoy the scene in which she walks to Netherfield. I would love to think I might one day develop the qualities of Ann Elliot and Elinor Dashwood. As for the men, I would have to give a proposal from Mr Darcy or Mr Knightley serious consideration. I am attracted by Edward Ferrars’ desire for a quiet, humble life but I like the quiet brooding of Colonel Brandon. As a couple, I like the way that Admiral and Mrs Croft operate.”

Can you add any humorous or insightful antecedents that you encountered with the project?

“My five year old daughter now thinks that I created these characters. She similarly thinks I am responsible for Scrooge and Fagin. Don’t worry – I have disillusioned her.

Some people I meet regularly now seem to see me as a listening post for their ‘all I know about Jane Austen’ monologues. I have had to defend poor Jane against all sorts of ridiculous assertions and prejudices.”

End of interview.

Thank you Gill for sharing your intellectual process with us. I appreciated your thorough research and understanding of Jane Austen’s works.

Image of the cover of Emma Retold, by Gill Tavner, Real Reads, (2008)In conclusion, my first impressions of this project were influenced by my personal concerns of interpretation and integrity. Like Lizzy Bennet, my journey to self discovery was both revealing and enlightening. The editions are visually appealing. The text was well thought out, humorous and engaging for the two ten year old girls, (their prime audience), that I tested them out on. The young ladies thoroughly enjoyed the stories and loved the illustrations. For an adult perspective, if I was learning English as a second language they could be useful. They are not a substitute for the real texts. Students seeking quick answers for their English essay can read the Spark Notes treatment, however, there is just NO excuse for young adults not reading the real thing.

Like other recent Austenesque novels such as Mr. Darcy’s Diary or Letters from Pemberley, these retellings are inspired by Jane Austen’s prose and are not a replacement of them. Should this project have been attempted? Yes. Should they be marketed to adults? Not intentionally. Will they open up possibilities for young readers to advance to the full novels? Definitely.

Jane Austen Book Sleuth, Jane Austen Inspired

Jane Austen Retold: Reaching Young Readers, Part One

Image of banner of covers of Austen Retold, by Gill Tavner, Real Reads, (2008) 

 “I dare say you will find him very agreeable.” “Heaven forbid! That would be the greatest misfortune of all! — To find a man agreeable whom one is determined to hate! Do not wish me such an evil.”  Charlotte Lucas and Elizabeth Bennet on dancing with Mr. Darcy, Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 18


It is always a happy discovery to learn that new Jane Austen inspired books are in the queue. Recently we have had a boatload to look forward to such as The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, A Walk with Jane Austen, and Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict. When I first learned about the publication by Real Reads of Jane Austen’s six major novels retold for a young audience, I was both excited and apprehensive.

When word of the new editions hit the Jane Austen community last year, the emotional and turbid response was not surprising. Janeites are quite protective of their favourite authoress, and immediate questions arose concerning how Jane Austen’s works could be shortened and retold for a young audience without severely altering her original intent. And more seriously, should it even be attempted?

These were intriguing questions, and I felt compelled to discover the answers! I was fortunate to be able to go straight to the source, author Gill Tavner and publisher John Button, of Real Reads in England. Ms. Tavner graciously agreed to an interview, the results of which will be included in two posts published here over the next two days.

Image of the cover of Pride and Prejudice Retold, by Gill Tavner, Real Reads, (2008)The six new illustrated volumes include; Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. The first two novels will be officially released for sale today and revealed with great fanfare at the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England. The last four novels will be released in the UK on March 27th. No launch dates yet in North America, but hopefully they will follow shortly after their UK release dates.

The paperback editions with colour dust jackets run about 65 pages in length, and are generously illustrated in colour by the talented artist Ann Kronheimer. In addition, the volumes are sandwiched by a character listing at the beginning of the text, and an expanded “Taking Things Further”, at the conclusion of the text including plot and character expansions, historical and social perspectives, and further resources for the reader. Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice are available for purchase at Amazon.co.uk., and at Lovereading4kids.co.uk online. 

Image of author Gill TavnerAuthor Gill Tavner was open and honest about her aspirations and objectives in retelling Jane Austen’s classic novels. What transpires in the interview might surprise you. 

How did you become involved in the Real Reads Austen project?

“A chance meeting with John Button of Bookcraft led eventually to a conversation about how classics could possibly be retold for children. We both thought that it would be possible and important to do this with intellectual integrity, and if done well, it would have considerable value to many readers.”

Who did you write these retellings for? Who do you hope to reach?

“Our initial aim for all Real Reads was to write for children between about eight and thirteen years old. These are still the readers I have in mind when I plan and write.

For some readers, I hope that Real Reads light the spark of enthusiasm and confidence to lead them to the original. Accordingly, our notes at the back constantly send the reader back to the original. For other readers, who, for whatever reason, might never have read the original anyway, my books can give them access to great plots, characters and moral issues which have become a part of our culture.”

How were you introduced to Jane Austen and when?

“I didn’t read any Jane Austen until I studied Emma for ‘A’ level English (age 16-18). I then chose to study all of Jane Austen’s novels independently in preparation for the Oxford University entrance exam. At York University I elected a module on ‘Jane Austen and her Predecessors’, which I found fascinating.”

Image of author Gill Tavner


What interested you in retelling Jane Austen’s classic novels?

“For many years, Jane Austen has been my favourite author. Many people we consulted doubted that Jane Austen could successfully be treated (retold) in this way. I decided to consider how I might overcome some of the difficulties Jane Austen would present. Once I had a proposed treatment for all of the novels, and John had agreed them, I began with Sense and Sensibility.”

What qualities as a writer did you appreciate about Jane Austen, and did she inspire you in any way professionally?

“Jane Austen allows her characters the space to reveal themselves through their own words and actions. She rarely tells us what they are like. This is an amazing feat and closely resembles the way we learn about people in everyday life. I haven’t yet found an author who does this as well as she does.

Her wit is second to none. Were she around now, she would be a great host or guest on ‘Have We Got News For You’. (UK readers will get this reference.)

In terms of inspiring me… if only I could be half as clever.”

End of part one.

I hope that you can join us as the interview continues tomorrow, revealing insights into the writing process, and Ms. Tavner’s concluding remarks.