Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Accessible Jane Austen

A certain children's book publicist I know will, from time to time, send me a book with a brief note like "Must Read!", "Beautiful" or "Enjoy!". She selects the titles judiciously and I've learned, over time, that it's worth putting aside whatever I'm reading at the moment when I get a package from her. I received such a package yesterday and the note attached simply said "Enjoy". Naturally, once I got home from work and my kids were all settled in, I took out Prom & Prejudice and settled in myself. What a delightfully unexpected little bit of fun! On her website, author Elizabeth Eulberg, explains that, as a writer, she sets out to write books like those she really enjoyed as a teen - books that were fun. Prom & Prejudice is definitely that. As you might have guessed from the title, it's a contemporized take on Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice. The characters (bearing the same names as they do in Pride & Prejudice) attend elitist boarding schools in Connecticut. The privileged students generally come from Manhattan and the underprivileged "scholarship students" are from Hoboken. I have to say - she had me at Hoboken. I finished the book in one night just so I could pass it along this morning and brighten someone else's day.

This morning I remembered the time, not too long ago, when one of my daughters encountered and devoured the Twilight saga. When she was done, for a period of time, she craved love stories. She read several but Wuthering Heights and Pride & Prejudice were just too much work at the time. I wonder if a book like Prom & Prejudice might serve a dual purpose - offering a fun and satisfyingly entertaining read on its own and serving as a first step toward taking on Austen; it's an accessible Austen, if you will. By enhancing the enjoyment our kids' reading experience, by letting our kids choose the books that interest them, we are nurturing a lifelong love of reading. The child or young adult who delights in Prom & Prejudice may be motivated to read the author who started it all, Jane Austen. If we really want to expose our children to literary classics, maybe we need to set the stage early and facilitate their development as readers first - by maximizing the enjoyment of the reading experience.

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