One of My Favorite Finds of Last Year: BabyLit Books by Jennifer Adams

Photo from Cornell University Library
This doesn’t happen often to me…

When I found these books I immediately had to have them for my daughter for Christmas. Yes, my daughter was only 8-months old at the time so I was being a little too ridiculous in my excitement as I frantically visited book Web site after book Web site trying to find a local store that had copies on their shelves. The idea of these books inspired me to that great an extent that when I finally found copies and had them held it at the front desk, I breathed a sigh of relief.

Mission accomplished.

See, I had to give my daughter her first copy of Pride & Prejudice … Of course, this new version I found is only about counting to ten.

BabyLit Books by Jennifer Adams, with wonderful illustrations by Alison Oliver, is a new series of hard books for young children using great literature as a template for counting instruction. There are two books out in the series at this time. Little Master Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet  and Little Miss Austen’s Pride & Prejudice .

I love the idea behind these books and the illustrations are very charming. They are also filled with subtle humor for both the well-read reader and the newbie.

Now, while the initial idea of the series is very creative, sometimes the creativity wans. The Romeo and Juliet book seems to be a big misstep (and to be honest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream would have been a better match for the counting and the artist) and sometimes you feel like the idea was a little rushed. For example, in the Pride and Prejudice book couldn’t there have been something better than horses for the number six? Yes, I am sure there are horses in Pride and Prejudice, but I don’t remember them playing a part in the plot (It would be like referencing drapes in a room or something). But when Jennifer Adams is on a roll you can tell by some of the pages; 2 rich gentlemen, 10 for 10,000 pounds a year, etc.

In March their next two books in the series will be released, a version of Jane Eyre  and Alice in Wonderland . For me, this is perfect because it is a month before my daughter turns one. The Jane Eyre idea sounds fun, but Alice in Wonderland does seem a little obvious and unneccesary (and might be already out there in a way thanks to Disney, etc.)
However, these latest books do make me wonder how long this can go on and if it should. While I love the idea and the illustrations, I would personally recommend only a few more, maybe Great Expectations or A Christmas Carol, Tom Sawyer, or something related to Sherlock Holmes.

Here is another problem I do not think Jennifer Adams or the publisher really have considered, but readers are collectors. If we like an idea, a genre, or an author, we won’t usually have only one book, we will have all of the books. So this idea, while inspired, needs to branch out more from simply counting. How about ABCs or shapes or even colors?

Let’s be honest, any book given to a child this young is a symbolic gesture to the parents. The child is never going to enjoy it as much as the parent receiving it. And really, for the literary parent I can’t imagine a warmer gesture than giving their new baby their first introduction to literature. So if you have any friends expecting and they are known for enjoying a good book from time to time, I highly recommend tracking down one of these books.



Most recently, Scott D. Southard is the author of MEGAN and MY PROBLEM WITH DOORS, both can be found on amazon.com here.

He can also be followed via Twitter (@SDSouthard) and his personal blog.