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Culture Children's Books
Goodnight Mr. Darcy
If parents find themselves reading the same picture book over and over again (as we know they often will), it might as well be a funny take on a witty and popular book. Goodnight Mr. Darcy offers a crossover parody between Pride and Prejudice and Goodnight Moon. Illustrator Alli Arnold captures the classic colors and style of Goodnight Moon while Coombs supplies the clever lines and rhymes: “And Jane with a blush and / Mr. Bingley turned to mush / And a gossiping mother / and a father saying ‘hush.’” Goodnight Mr. Darcy is a charming board book for the youngest of readers. (Ages 3-5)
Brave Jane Austen: Reader, Writer, Author, Rebel
Brave Jane Austen uncovers how Austen cultivated her witty and insightful writing style as the story follows the development of Austen’s mind and writing from childhood to adulthood. Pliscou writes about the pieces of Austen’s life—including her curiosity and nightly family read-alouds—that shaped her future. The book uses simple words and fun illustrations to show what life was like in the English countryside during Austen’s time. Pliscou also includes a short biography in the endnotes with more dates, details, and educational notes. With its bright, charming illustrations, this picture book biography will delight the youngest of aspiring writers. (Ages 5-9)
Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen
Like Brave Jane Austen, Hopkinson’s book explores the life of Austen in picture book format. Hopkinson’s take on Austen’s life emphasizes the more relatable and ordinary aspects of her family and personality. The storyline highlights what made Austen unique among other novelists of her time: her wry wit and decision to write about everyday people instead of larger-than-life heroes and daring deeds. The book features lovely watercolor illustrations and fun details about Austen’s life. The endnotes include a timeline of her life and a list of her novels with significant dates, plot summaries, and famous quotes. (Ages 4-8)
The Beautifull Cassandra
This novelette by a 12-year-old Austen is a perfect way to introduce middle-grade readers who aren’t quite ready for Austen’s full-length novels. Each of the 12 chapters is only a few sentences long, chronicling the misadventures of a mischievous young girl named Cassandra. It’s a simple read but already displays the keen eye and good-natured satire that marked Austen’s later works and endeared her to readers past and present. The Beautifull Cassandra also serves to expose young readers to older works of literature while expanding their comfort with unfamiliar vocabulary and sentence structure. (Ages 9 & up)
The “Book-to-Table” edition of Pride and Prejudice offers Austen’s Classic Novel With Recipes for Modern Teatime Treats by Martha Stewart (Puffin Books, 2018). This elegant version includes the beloved novel’s original text, which seems to grow sharper and funnier with every reread. Even younger middle-grade readers will likely have no problem following the plot if it is read aloud to them with proper voices and accents.
The beautiful hardback book also includes illustrations of elaborate confections, excerpts of famous quotations, and 12 period-appropriate recipes. None of the recipes are overly complicated, and all of them call for ingredients that readers can find at a regular grocery store. This perfectly executed edition invites families to an afternoon of reading and baking petits fours together. Consider it a mentally enriching version of watching The Great British Baking Show. —R.L.A.