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You may recall that last year I raved about Jack and Holman Wang’s board book for children based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. They promised to introduce more Austen titles and they have been true to their word. Their new title, the second in their Austen series, is Emma, my favourite Austen novel.  I have fallen in love with the so very expressive felt characters in this book and their simple way of re-telling Austen’s classic tale in only ten words. Screenwriters please take note.

Emma by Jack and Holman Wang

Emma by Jack and Holman Wang

Here is the synopsis of the tale from the Cozy Classics website:

Convinced of her own talent for matchmaking, Emma Woodhouse tries to make a match for her young protégé, Harriet Smith. Harriet’s past is sketchy, but Emma believes she deserves to marry a gentleman and sets her sights on Mr. Elton, the village vicar. Harriet receives an offer of marriage from Robert Martin, a prosperous farmer, but Emma persuades Harriet to turn him down and pursue Mr. Elton instead.

Cozy Classics' Mr Knightley

Cozy Classics’ Mr Knightley


Mr. Knightley,(above) the wealthy owner of Donwell Abbey and a trusted family friend, believes Robert and Harriet would have made a fine match and is furious at Emma for her meddling. He’s proven right when Mr. Elton professes his love for—Emma! Later, Harriet is saved from a swarm of gypsy beggars by Frank Churchill, a new face in the village of Highbury. Emma now sets her sights on setting up Harriet and Frank.
One day at a picnic on Box Hill, Emma makes fun of Miss Bates, a poor spinster, for being long-winded.

Cozy Classics' Miss Bates

Cozy Classics’ Miss Bates

Mr. Knightley is angry at Emma for being so unkind. Emma not only feels sorry but also realizes she has always loved Mr. Knightley—and Mr. Knightley feels the same! Once it’s discovered that Frank is engaged to someone else, Harriet is free to pursue the feelings she’s always had for Robert, and everyone is happy!

The illustrations are so cleverly and intricately created from a tableau of felt characters, it is entirely possible ( for I have done it! )to recreate, by reading the book to a child, a simple version of Austen’s clever novels, and to then discuss, in detail, what is happening to the characters. The illustration of Miss Bates being mocked by Emma and Frank Churchill is heartrending. It illuminates the word “laugh”, and will give a child a very different perspective form that he /she usually experiences.( or so open hopes).These books present a perfect introduction to understanding books and the process of reading, in my very humble opinion. The illustrations are very cleverly executed, with much character in the faces and expression in their attitudes. I loved this book, and yes, it is going to be given to the small people in my life this Christmas ( and to some not-so-small people too!)

Slightly off the Austen track, there is now available a Cozy Classic version of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.

Cozy Classics Jane Eyre by Charlottle Bronte

Cozy Classics Jane Eyre by Charlottle Bronte

This is quite as successful, in my opinion, as the Austen titles tackled thus far,for it really does manage to condense the main elements of that epic tale in ten words. Which is some achievement. They are perfect stocking fillers for fans of literature and of children’s illustrated books. Here is a short time lapse video of the Making of the Miniature Mr. Rochester:

I’d not object to him being found in my Christmas Stocking either;)

As  you all know I found out about the existence of this book a few weeks ago and was really taken with the concept. The authors and their publishers contacted me after reading my article, and very kindly sent the copy which I (rather reluctantly!) included in my Third Anniversary Giveaway last week.

Cozy-Classic's Pride and Prejudice by Holman and Jack Wang

Cozy-Classic’s Pride and Prejudice by Holman and Jack Wang

For those of you who may not be familiar with it, the book-a beautifully photographed board book- is a shortened version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  It tells the story using key words and concepts from the novel, illustrated by photographs of felt figures acting out the episode. Obviously the book is intended for use by small children. As the adult reading the book with the child,  you are expected to explain the pictures and ” fill in the blanks”. And of course these explanations can get more elaborate as the child grows in understanding….till eventually they will want to pick up a copy of Jane Austen’s own text.

The authors, Holman and Jack Wang explained their vision for this series of books in their email to me:

This is the concept for the series: to revitalize the infant word primer genre by avoiding the tired concepts of counting, animals, shapes, etc., and introducing the idea of narrative or story. Each book tells a beloved tale through 12 child-friendly words and 12 needle-felted illustrations. Of course, you are right that 12 words can only sketch out the most basic narrative arc. But as children grow, the books will hopefully become a storytelling vehicle that allows parents to spin a bedtime yarn with ever-increasing elaboration and detail (just like you have with the quotes from P&P in your blog post!). We think the concept and the artwork will not only appeal to children, but to adults as well.

Here are some examples from the book.

FirstFriends:  showing Darcy and Bingley standing before the famous text of  Jane Austen’s opening chapter:
Sisters: where we are introduced to Jane and Elizabeth Bennet:
and finally,  Read:  poor Elizabeth reading That Letter from Darcy:
I have to say I’m very taken with this idea. I loved reading to my children when they were small, and I know we would have enjoyed reading  this book together. The illustrations are so enchanting, I find them irresistible. And they are a blessed relief from the growing trend for the use of computer generated graphics in children’s books, which I find so impersonal and well, cold. My daughter has suggested that  there may even be a market for the beautifully crafted figures, and I agree with her. I have now ordered copies as Christmas gifts for all the small people in my life. They cannot be exposed to good literature soon enough, and this is a charmingly simple and easy way to do it.
If you would like to see more the Cozy Classics website is available to view here.

This image appeared in my Twitter feed last week. It purported to be an illustration taken from a children’s board book which uses dolls to illustrate  key words/emotions from the tale of Pride and Prejudice

The image might show Darcy making his sneering remark about Elizabeth at the Meryton Assembly , “She is not handsome enough to tempt me”  or is it his first disastrous proposal at Hunsford? In any case his behaviour is deemed to be the epitome of  “mean”.

I truly thought this was a spoof.

But today I discovered that you can actually pre-order this at Amazon (or at any other bookseller I presume) because it is a Cozy Classic board book edition of Pride and Prejudice intended for very small children,written by Jack and Holman Wang.

Here is the cover, showing Elizabeth Bennet galloping across the fields to Netherfield, her petticoat six inches deep in mud…

Other titles in the series are available to order and include War and Peace, Moby Dick and Les Miserables.  I have to see the rest of this book, I confess. Despise  me if you dare ;)

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