I’ve been a bookworm for as long as I can remember. As soon as I could read to myself I was straight down the library every week borrowing as many books as I could carry. I started with Enid Blyton and Jacqueline Wilson, moving on to the Babysitters Club, Goosebumps, Sweet Valley High and then ‘grown up’ books. I say grown up where I simply mean books for adults. Contemporary ones. Stephen King, Sophie Kinsella, Jodi Picoult… not classics. Not for a long time.
I think mandatory reading during my school and college years put me off the likes of Shakespeare, the Brontes and other ‘must-read’ classics, such as The Scarlet Letter and The Colour Purple. Perhaps reading aloud in class didn’t help either. I hated (hate) public speaking and reading aloud. I read much faster to myself and always skipped ahead and forever trip over my words whenever I read out loud. Starting and stopping to analyse every other word meant that I could never just enjoy the book for what it was either. Why weren’t we assigned the book to read ourselves and then take it chapter by chapter or scene by scene in class? Isn’t it better to have a complete overview of the story first?
I can’t remember what made me start reading ‘classics’ for pleasure. Perhaps it was seeing the gorgeous Penguin Clothbound Classics on the shelves in Waterstones. Maybe it was becoming engrossed in the story rather than the language while watching adaptations, such as the Tom Hardy version of Wuthering Heights, or the Keira Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice. Whatever it was, one day something clicked and I started devouring whatever I could get my hands on. In fact, Jane Austen is now one of my all-time favourite writers and Emma, obviously, is one of my favourite novels.
I love looking at people’s Bookstagram accounts and swooning over pretty covers and special editions. I also love it when people collect different editions of their favourite titles – I’m thinking of doing that with Emma. I think the Cozy Classic is a great addition to my small collection of Emma books (ok, so it’s only my second, but a girl’s gotta start somewhere!) and it’s also a fun way to introduce little ones to classic stories.
It’s funny how easy it is to disregard certain types of books growing up (hell, even as an adult!) because you think you can’t relate to the subject matter, it’s ‘too old’, or you don’t understand the language. But really the stories themselves are timeless and so universal. Take Jane Austen’s titular heroine; she’s a girl who’s trying to set up her friends but ends up falling for the guy. How many times have we heard that story in the 200 years since it was first published?!
The Cozy Classics from Abrams and Chronicle are a fun and interesting way of introducing young readers to classic novels. The simple plot points help them understand more complex narratives and the alternative illustrations/photographs allow them to associate the words with actions and emotions. Plus I love the inclusion of the actual opening lines from the novels. As well as Emma, you can get your mitts on a whole range of titles, including Jane Eyre, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Moby Dick and War and Peace. Pride and Prejudice gets the needle-felt treatment too, as well as a graphic novel reimagining.
There’s a fantastic range of graphic novel and manga adaptations of classics, including Shakespeare (King Lear, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth), A Tale of Two Cities, Crime and Punishment and The Picture of Dorian Gray. I think it’s a novel (sorry!) way of engaging younger readers in material they might otherwise avoid. I’m even thinking about checking out a couple myself.
What about you? At what age did you start reading the classics, if at all?
*I was sent a copy of Cozy Classics: Emma for review purposes. All thoughts are my own.