While grabbing some Starbucks and browsing through Chapters this past week with Kaley from Books Ect, I stumbled upon the most amazing book I could ever imagine: Pride and Prejudice….for babies! Written by “Little Miss Austen,” this board book adaptation brings aspects of her classic novel to life through counting: 1 English Village, 2 Rich Gentlemen, 3 Houses, 4 marriage proposals, 5 sisters, ect. The first word to pop into my head while flipping through this work? ADORABLE!
As I looked at the other books on the table, things only got better! Not only was there a Pride and Prejudice board book, but Sense and Sensibility, Dracula, Alice in Wonderland, Jane Eyre, Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights, and Moby Dick too! Like Pride and Prejudice, each of these books presented their classic tale in the form of a primer. Sense and Sensibilty, for example, focused on opposites (Mr. Willoughby is happy; Colonel Brandon is sad), while Alice in Wonderland examined colours (White Rabbit, Red Queen, ect.).
After oohing and aahing over the cuteness of these books with Kaley, my inner librarian began to kick in. While these board books were absolutely adorable, I couldn’t help but question their actual suitability for small children. Glancing through Pride and Prejudice, it was obvious that the language being used was definitely outside the scope of a baby. Most toddlers are still working on the words “Cat” or “Dog” let alone “English Village” and “Two Rich Gentlemen.”
There is also the major question of whether or not a classic novel can really be broken down into something that can easily be understood by babies. According to the publisher, BabyLit, these board books are “a fashionable way to introduce your toddler to the world of classic literature.” But what does that even mean? Through counting will a baby come to understand what the “Four Marriage Proposals” and ” Five Sisters” is actually referring to in Pride and Prejudice? Will the complexities of Austen’s plot suddenly make sense? The answer is quite simply “No.”
The reality is that the true target audience for these board books is adults. Only those who have familiarized themselves with these classics will understand the references being made and chuckle at their hidden humour (like Lizzie’s response of “No Way!” to Mr. Collins proposal). While these books are presented as books for babies, they are really meant to appeal to the adults that have come to love these classics. After all, what parent wouldn’t be tempted to purchase such an adorable book to share with their child having read and enjoyed Pride and Prejudice themselves? I know I was pretty tempted to buy it, and I don’t even have any children yet!
I suppose my final verdict is that although these board book adaptations are not suitable for babies, their cuteness and nostalgia will be endearing to those adults who grew up to love these classics. What are your thoughts? Do you think board books like this would have an impact on babies?
PS. An Anna Karenia Fashion Primer, Sherlock Holms Sound Primer, and Jabberwocky Nonsense Primer are coming this Fall!