I was surprised and delighted to see not one but two children’s biographies of Jane Austen pop up in 2018.
Being a thorough Austen fan, I introduced my kids to her at fairly young ages, setting out tea and plenty of treats while we watched the long BBC production of Pride and Prejudice. When they were old enough, they gobbled up her novels quite of their own accord.
If you, likewise, smile at Jane’s wit and insight and only wish she’d had time to write more, you’ll enjoy both of these new picture book treats.
Brave Jane Austen: Reader, Writer, Author, Rebel, written by Lisa Pliscou, illustrated by Jen Corace
published in 2018 by Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company
This first account has a lengthier text which flows exceptionally well, ambling along through Jane’s childhood and her first forays into writing, lifting the veil on what we know of any romance in her own life, noting the happy success she achieved before her early death at age 41.
Pliscou generously strews fascinating details along the way, describing the rural England and imaginative storytelling of Austen’s childhood, the Regency manners and sparkling ideas of her growing up years, her skill as an author, the obstacles she faced as a female writer, and the gracious way she lived her life.
Corace woos us into the story from the end pages right on through, spreading vivid color, charm, period detail, and genteel warmth on every page. An exceptionally welcoming biography for ages 5 and up. Back matter including A Life and Times of Jane Austen, selected quotations from her writings, and praise from a handful of Jane’s many admirers, will be savored by older readers.
Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen: The Story of Six Novels, Three Notebooks, a Writing Box, and One Clever Girl, written by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Qin Leng
published in 2018 by Balzer & Bray, HarperCollins
One of my favorite children’s biographers, Hopkinson scales things way back in this delicate dance through Austen’s life.
She traces Jane’s life from childhood on, with lively detail and a light hand. If you read both of these biographies, you will find ingredients that complement one another, and particulars that are unique to each of them. I’d recommend dipping into the longer one first, then topping it off with this second book as a sort of dessert 🙂
Qin Leng’s tender, elegant line and hue, her graceful compositions, lend a peaceful, sunny gentility to each page. The book includes a timeline of Austen’s life and a tiny primer on her six novels. An exquisite treat for ages 4 through adult.
Break out the tea and tarts and settle in!