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.