Austen for Babies

Babylit XmasPerhaps I should change the name of this blog to “Nerdy Fantastica.” Let’s see. In the past few posts, I’ve treated you to my obsessions with Richard III and Anne of Green Gables.

Which means, of course, that it’s time to move on to Jane Austen.

As I’m sure you know, Pride and Prejudice is celebrating its 200th birthday. Hurray! I wish I could tell you that Colin Firth came over to my house so we could snuggle, snog, and mark the milestone together.

Alas, it is not so!

Perhaps Babylit is the next best thing. If you’re not familiar, this brand bills itself as “a fashionable way to introduce your toddler to the world of classic literature.” Well. I hardly care about being fashionable (as evidenced by the less-than-impressive contents of my closet). But I care quite a lot about exposing my daughter to the fabulous Ms. Austen.

That’s right, folks. Thanks to this delightful board book, Sweet Pea could say “Mr. Darcy” at eighteen months old. Hot damn! I call that proper parenting.

There’s actually a whole series of these books: multiple titles from classic literature reimagined as exuberantly illustrated counting primers. This Christmas presented quite a dilemma. I was debating whether or not to get the Babylit Romeo and Juliet for Sweet Pea. But, much as I love Shakespeare, I decided on the story whose original plot does NOT involve a double suicide.

Call me crazy, but it seemed more child-appropriate somehow.

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Portrait of the Writer as a Young Fan

I’m sure my last post implied that I’m an epic Anne fan. But just in case there was any doubt:

Katie dressed as Anne

Katie dressed as Anne_turn away

Behold, 6th grade me swanning about in a Gibson Girl up-do! Was it a special occasion? Not at all! I was just bored on a Saturday and wishing I’d been born as a certain Canadian redhead.

(The hairdo was courtesy of my mother, a former beautician and infinitely patient parent.)

Anne with an “e”… and red hair

blonde AnneWhat. The. Hell.

Monica Hesse of The Washington Post said it better than I ever could, yet I’m still compelled to sound off.

The Internet is all a-buzz because CreateSpace (some time ago, apparently) released an edition of L.M. Montgomery’s classic Anne of Green Gables. The cover art would lead one to believe… what, exactly? That this is a 21st century young adult novel about a Taylor-Swift wannabe?

First and foremost, there’s the blonde factor. Okay, I could understand if someone misrepresented Jane Stuart on a cover. She’s not well-known. Her looks don’t really matter all that much. (Bonus points to all of you who’ve actually read Jane of Lantern Hill. A heroine who dreams of polishing the moon? Yawn. Yet still, as a dutiful Montgomery fan, part of my collection.)

But Anne Shirley? Anne is an icon! She’s on a freaking license plate. And her red hair plays a significant role in the plot of Green Gables. If you were a literate individual who’d ever encountered this text (say, for instance, me at age seven) or even a movie version of said text, then you would know that she has red hair.

Not cool, CreateSpace. Not cool.

And another thing. The Anne books are set in the late Victorian era on Prince Edward Island. That’s part of their charm. I spent much of my childhood wishing I could go back in time and live in Anne’s world. I considered “Gibson Girl” hair an integral part of playing dress-up. And I loved the slow, sweet way that Anne’s relationship with Gilbert progressed.  The books just felt like a window into another world.

This cover photo looks like something a teenager trying to be “hot but not slutty” would post on her Facebook account. (Again, yawn.)

Give me the classic Anne any day.

Anne

Come on, fellow Anne fans. Share your thoughts.

Epic History Nerd Moment

Richard-IIIIn case the title of my last post didn’t clue you in, I’m a big Richard III fan. I love Shakespeare’s play. I love the history. I love the revisionist history. I own and frequently reread Josephine Tey’s fabulous mystery novel, Daughter of Time (and yes, I recommend it to you now if you’ve any interest in Richard III).

Great Britain fascinates me. Like any good romance reader/writer, I love me some Jane Austen. I enjoy each episode of Downton Abbey. And I firmly believe that an accent from some corner of the British Empire makes an actor especially drool-worthy.

However.

At my core, I’m a super-geek. I love the medieval thru Elizabethan era. I love the fact that it’s a period at once familiar (we’ve all seen our fair share of utterly inaccurate princess/knight movies) and remote (so many gaps and potential/probable misinterpretations in our knowledge). And Richard? The dude’s been dead for centuries. He was only king for two years. And yet he remains one of the most famous and controversial figures in history.

Did he kill the princes in the Tower? Such a good question.  And I’m betting it will be asked more often–and investigated more thoroughly–now that they’ve exhumed and identified Richard III’s body.

A PhD program! A PhD program! My kingdom for a PhD program! (Oh, and the ability to actually read medieval Latin.)

I’m sure you’ve heard. It’s all over the news. But just in case, here’s a link to catch you up.

Later, my friends. I’m off to cruise the Richard III Society homepage. (Earlier today I read about a plan to write a movie about Richard III, with potential casting of–squeal!–Richard Armitage!)