Should I be reading Pride and Prejudice to my daughter?

A bookshelf full of old books

My daughter’s current favourite book is “Mog, the Forgetful Cat.” The plot is as follows: a cat annoys her family by…well, being a cat, but then she accidentally alerts them to a burglar in the house, so they get over it and give her lots of eggs. It’s not the most compelling story in the world, but the Popple is 20 months old and that’s pretty much the level she’s at right now.

I thought I was doing pretty well by exposing her to the likes of Mog, the Gruffalo and Spot, but then I discovered that there was a version of Sense and Sensibility for babies, and I felt like maybe we were both a bit basic.

BabyLit creates board book versions of the classics, covering everything from Pride and Prejudice and Anna Karenina to Les Miserables and Romeo and Juliet. They seem to mostly consist of cartoony pictures of things that vaguely relate to the original books. Look at Anna Karenina in her pretty hat! And all those French people waving flags around! Count friends, kisses, roses and dead bodies in Romeo and Juliet. Okay, not the dead bodies.

And therein lies the problem.

Because what is Romeo and Juliet without the death? And Les Miserables without the death? And Anna Karenina without the…err, death? The classics have stood the test of time because they’re rich with conflict and emotion. Take that away – along with the artfully-crafted language and intricate plot details – and you’re left with something that bears pretty much no resemblance to the original work. What’s the point? Being able to say that your baby read Don Quixote? NO THEY DIDN’T – THEY’RE A BABY.

The Popple will read these classic books in all their brilliant complexity when she’s older, assuming that people are still reading books in 20 years and not just mindlessly scrolling through fart memes on their smartphones.

For now, Mog will do.

A version of this post was originally published on MeetOtherMums.

 

Diary of an imperfect mum

 

Admissions Of A Working Mother

Island Living 365

26 Comment

  1. There are knitted versions picture book versions too…i can’t remember what they are called but yes you are right…they need the emotion, the complexities and all the deaths!!

  2. I would probably buy those Babylit books just as I love that stuff… but Mog and Tiger are are definitely favourites! !

  3. I had no idea this existed… I’m not sure how I feel about this. Plus pride and prejudice will always give mummy lovely dreams of Mr Darcy in his wet shirt and breeches…. hopefully not just me!!! #stayclassymama

  4. Mog, Gruffalo or anything from Julia Donaldson is just perfect. Better than the sanitized version of Romeo and Juliet. #stayclassymama

  5. I’ve never come across these books before. I love Pride and Prejudice but I don’t think we’ll be reading to our girls any time soon. As you say – it’s just not the same. I don’t like it when they do “modern day” versions of the classics either – all the formal, intricate language is part of its charm. The Gruffalo all the way! #ablogginggoodtime

  6. I’m not sure my 3 year old would appreciate Mr Darcy’s shocking proposal if I’m honest. But I’m still sort of intrigued! We have a selection of Shakespeare stories that have been turned into “Childrens Stories” and they do work – I can imagine them being useful at a sort of pre-teen age, but I can’t think how I’d explain the rampant misogyny in Taming of the Shrew tbh… #ablogginggoodtime

  7. I think you’re right to be sticking with Mog – that’s what being a child is all about – children’s books! There’s plenty of time for the classics, if in fact, you’re right, anybody is reading anymore. My ten year old is reading all the favourites of my own youth, Little Women, Swallows & Amazons, The Borrowers and The Secret Garden, and she loves them – they are timeless classics and thank goodness. #ablogginggoodtime

  8. I agree! You can’t take away the conflict from the plays and novels as that is what drives the plot forward and keeps us hooked. Without they are just a bit dull! 🙂

  9. I didn’t know this existed either. I’m a bit tempted to buy some just to see what they’re all about. I love the classics. I hope Peachy will want to read them too when she’s old enough.

  10. Just popping back again from#ridayFrolics

  11. Just popping back again from#FridayFrolics

  12. Was not aware such “classics” existed. lol! I will steer clear! Thank you!

  13. Well, I’d never heard of these before. Can’t really see the point tbh. I’m sure your little one will appreciate Mog much more at the moment. There will be enough time to read the classics when they’re old enough to read the stories properly. Children grow up too quickly as it is.
    #fortheloveofBlog

  14. So many brilliant books written for babies and young children, Pride and Prejudice can hold it’s horses for 20 years or so! I remember reading Julia Donaldson’s Monkey Puzzle on loop for an age, they love a favourite book like a favourite toy. #Fridayfrolics

  15. Erm, I haven’t read most of those books myself lol. I’d be sticking with Mog the cat. Sounds much more baby friendly.

    #stayclasssymama

  16. I bought my baby daughter the ‘Cozy Classics’ Pride & Prejudice. I totally get what you’re saying about boiling down some of the most important works of literature into five words on wooden pages. Will it make her more likely to read it when she’s older? Probably not. But the feminist lit-chick in me felt a lot better!

  17. My 7 year old has just read a book called “to wee or not to wee” which has several funny stories loosely based on some Shakespeare classics. It’s by his favourite author and he loved it. Only problem is he now keeps going round talking about Shakespeare and to be honest coming out of the mouth of a 7 year old sounds a bit poncy! Not to mention the weird looks I am getting from other parents! Thanks for linking up to #FridayFrolics

  18. Oh for now Mog will more than aptly do! Yes to the reading of the beautiful text when she is old enough – a treat she can devour at the right time. Is the world going bonkers?! #fortheloveofBLOG

  19. I agree with you, I don’t think there’s much point in reading short versions of classics that miss out half the story. Let them read those later on, when the plot hasn’t been spoiled for them by a baby book! #stayclassymama

  20. During my Uni days I came across a book a called ‘Tales From Shakespeare’ written by Charles & Mary Lamb in 1918 which was basically a bunch plays condensed into two or three pages each, and designed to be an early introduction to Shakespeare for children (specifically girls; “For young ladies too it has been the intention chiefly to write”). I remember thinking “Just let them read the plays, please!!” Having said that, Amelia does have a pop-up ‘Alice In Wonderland’… But on the other hand, she’s recently become quite attached to a copy of Oliver Twist from my bookcase, but gave up listening in favour of playdough after she asked me to read it! Haha! #fortheloveofBLOG

  21. We’ve got the Pride & Prejudice baby counting book! I wrote a blog post about how aspiring to having 4 mansions, 9 pretty dresses & £10,000 a year wasn’t going to get BB very far! #ablogginggoodtime

  22. Mine currently like mog the forgetful cat too! Yes, I agree – it seems a bit pointless. Abridged versions for older kids, I see the point of. I read abridged versions of A Christmas Carol, Dracula and The Phantom of the Opera when I was probably 8 or 9. But they weren’t simplified beyond all recognition – they were still chapter books and telling the story, just simpler versions in simpler language. But for really little children, where it is so simplified it loses everything, why bother?

    Thanks so much for joining us for #FridayFrolics

  23. I can’t read to Alyssa really at the moment…she just tends to eat the books!!
    Thanks for linking to #ablogginggoodtime

  24. Hahah interesting! Bear is into turning pages and ripping them out of his book (he’s a year old), I think the only thing he’d be into is a fart meme that made the actual fart noise. Thanks for sharing with #stayclassymama!

  25. I remember having to read this book at part of my GCSE’s, and it was one of those painful books to read like Wuthering Heights, argh! I’m sure that these books are loved by a lot of people, but they are just not to my taste. I agree with you to stick with Spot for now, and I really hope that in 15 years are still reading a physical book rather than using phones for everything. Thanks for linking up at #fortheloveofBLOG. Claire x

  26. We received a few of those baby classics and they did not go over so well. Stick to kids books. Being a kid is a magical time and place for us and it lasts far too short in a lifetime. There will be much time for absorption and consumption of those biblios… Onward with Mog! #stayclassymama #fridayfrolics #ablogginggoodtime

Leave a Reply