Friday, 19 April 2013

ReadItDaddy's Book(s) of the Week - Cozy Classics (Les Miserables, Pride and Prejudice and Moby Dick) Adapted by Jack and Holman Wang (Simply Read Books)

How on earth can you possibly distil some of the world's best loved classics down to a tiny board book containing a handful of pages? HOW? It's impossible surely! Yet the Cozy Classics range has done exactly that, with plans to add more to their rather impressive line-up.

We took a look at three of the books and really could not choose between them for a 'book of the week' - and they're that good that we had to nominate all three.

In "Les Miserables", children are introduced to Victor Hugo's dark and sometimes disturbing world as we meet Jean Valjean and Cosette, learning how their paths cross and how this changes Jean Valjean's life and rather disreputable characteristics.

In "Moby Dick" a complex tale of madness and revenge is woven in an exciting and scary seafaring tale of a young sailor, an insane captain and his lust for revenge against the white whale that took his leg. Cozy Classics' version of Captain Ahab is fantastic, as is their whale (we just had to use him as our header for this piece).

Finally in Pride and Prejudice, we meet two of the Bennett sisters and the dashing (but grumpy) Mr Darcy. Heart-wrenching angst and romance play out in the backdrop of the English countryside.

Purists will scoff perhaps - pointing out that the Cozy Classics treatments of these tales won't actually help children understand the complex plots and machinations within the original novels - but in some ways that's missing the point. What these books successfully do is pique a child's curiosity when they're at Charlotte's age. In all honesty they're actually a bit young for her though it was great for her to be able to dive straight into a range of books and be able to read them all the way through on her own. You see, each page contains one word - rather cunningly picked to summarise particular scenes from the originals and it's done so effectively that you can't help but smile at the choices.

The main reason these have been demanded again, and again (and again! I'm not kidding, these have been read every day at least three times a day since we got them) is the sheer quality of production, presentation and illustration. Utterly delightful needlecraft and felt models of the characters and scenes mean that if you purely take these books as illustrated board books, they're some of the most beautiful you'll find nestling on children's book shelves. Every single character is instantly recognisable (and to Charlotte, the Bennett Sisters were utterly beautiful - particularly in the rather lovely wedding scene at the end of the version of Pride and Prejudice).

We dug out the original books and I read a couple of passages from them as Charlotte showed an interest. To her, this rather interesting 'stepping stone' between something child-friendly, and something fairly complicated and wordy, has been a journey of discovery. And that's pretty much what you'd want any book to be, even books that are as simple but so wonderfully presented as these.

There are plans for more in the series including War and Peace (!) and one I seriously can't wait for - Jane Eyre. Awesome! I'm sincerely hoping they're planning to also do Dracula and Frankenstein too!

Charlotte's best bit: The wedding scene at the end of 'Pride and Prejudice' "So beautiful!"

Daddy's favourite bit: The sinking of the Pequoud in "Moby Dick" - stunning.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Simply Read Books)