Jane Austen for Kids

Opinions vary about when (and also whether) to introduce children to Jane Austen. Age 12 is a common answer for the right age to read Austen for the first time, but why not get started at age 1 or 2? Here’s a list of books and resources for kids interested in learning more about Jane Austen, and/or for adults interested in sharing Austen’s novels with the children in their lives. I hope you’ll add your favourites in the comments below.

Here’s the link to my Pinterest board on Jane Austen for Kids.

By Jane Austen:

The Beautifull CassandraThe Beautifull Cassandra, by Jane Austen, illustrated by Juliet McMaster (Sono Nis Press, 1993). This is my favourite book for introducing children to Austen, because the whole story is by Austen herself, and because McMaster’s illustrations are delightful. She also includes a helpful Afterword that tells children about Austen’s life and her writing.

You can read about the creation of this book in Persuasions 10 (1988) and Persuasions 15 (1993). If you follow the link to McMaster’s article in Persuasions 15, you can also read her story “The Beautifull Jane: A Biography in Twelve Chapters.”

Here’s a review of The Beautifull Cassandra at Austenblog by ten-year-old Emma Carton, who writes, “I loved this book because it was written by a kid for kids…. Jane Austen is a wonderful writer and I can’t wait to read more of her books.”

“The Beautifull Cassandra: The Pictures, the Music, The Dance,” with illustrations by Juliet McMaster, music by Joanne Forman, and choreography by Amber Vasquez (published by the Jane Austen Society of North America), is available online.

Jack and Alice, by Jane Austen, edited by Joseph Wiesenfarth with Laura Maestrelli and Kristin Smith, illustrated by Juliet McMaster (Juvenilia Press, 2001). Read the JASNA News review here.

Cozy Classics Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen’s novels adapted for younger readers:

For babies and toddlers

The Cozy Classics series of board books

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, by Jack and Holman Wang. You can read my blog post “Pride and Prejudice for Babies” here.

Cozy Classics Emma

Jane Austen’s Emma, by Jack and Holman Wang. Here’s my review.

The BabyLit series of board books

Little Miss Austen: Pride and Prejudice, by Jennifer Adams, illustrated by Alison Oliver. I talk about this book in my post on Pride and Prejudice for Babies.”

Little Miss Austen Sense & Sensibility

Little Miss Austen: Pride and Prejudice playset (sold with the book), with cards to punch out and a box to use as a stage.

Little Miss Austen: Sense and Sensibility, by Jennifer Adams, illustrated by Alison Oliver. Read my review here, and Laurel Ann Nattress’s review here.

Goodnight Mr. Darcy, by Kate Coombs, illustrated by Alli Arnold.

For older children

Real Reads Sense and Sensibility

Real Reads abridged versions of Austen’s six novels, retold by Gill Tavner and illustrated by Ann Kronheimer

You can find my review of the Real Reads Sense and Sensibility here.

My post on Pride and Prejudice for Babies” includes a discussion of the Real Reads Pride and Prejudice.

My thirteen-year-old friend Rose wrote a review of the Real Reads Mansfield Park for my blog. And here’s what Rose, now fourteen, says about her first impressions on reading the complete novel, after first encountering the story in the abridged version: “Rose Reads Mansfield Park.”

Lizzy Bennet's DiaryRead Tracy Hickman’s review of the Usborne Young Reading Series adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (by Susanna Davidson, illustrated by Simona Bursi) at Austenprose.com.

Lizzy Bennet’s Diary, by Marcia Williams.

This one isn’t an adaptation of an Austen novel, but it has some entertaining parallels with Sense and Sensibility: The Penderwicks on Gardam Street is the second book in a wonderful series by Jeanne Birdsall, and a mysterious “Marianne Dashwood” figures prominently in the plot.

The Penderwicks on Gardam StreetThe first book in the series, The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy…, won the 2005 National Book Award for Young People, and it’s my favourite children’s book since Anne of Green Gables – I recommend it to everyone I know, I recommend the sequels highly, too, and I can’t wait to read the fifth book in the series when it’s published.

You can read about the Austen connections – including characters named Jane and Lizzy and references to hating flannel shirts – in The Penderwicks on Gardam Street in my post “A Passion for Dead Leaves.”

Jane Austen’s Life and Works:


Young Jane AustenYoung Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer
, a “speculative biography” by Lisa Pliscou. “The thread that connects all the pieces of the story is a question Jane Austen must have returned to again and again: what opportunities are open to girls? This was an excellent question in the late eighteenth century and it’s an excellent question now. Lisa draws attention to possible answers throughout her book.” I wrote about Young Jane Austen in this post on “Imagining Jane Austen’s Childhood.”

Jane Austen: The Girl with the Magic Pen, a biography by Gill Hornby

Jane Austen: The Girl with the Magic PenJane Austen for Beginners, by Robert G. Dryden. Laurie Kaplan reviewed this introduction to Austen’s life and works in the Winter 2013 issue of JASNA News: “Jane Austen for Beginners would make a good birthday or graduation present for a ‘noisy and wild’ young person like Catherine Morland, or for a teenager who, like Catherine at seventeen, has an ‘inclination for finery’ and is in training to become a hero/heroine.”Conversations and News about Jane Austen for Kids:

“Reading Jane Austen to Children,” by Alexa Adams

Jane Austen for Beginners, by Robert G. Dryden“Is Anyone too Young to Read Jane Austen?” blog post by Laurie Viera Rigler, author of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict

“Shakespeare and Jane Austen for Kids? There’s an App for That! Secret Builders and Oxford University Press to ‘Gamify’ the Classics”

From JA to YA: adapting Jane Austen for young adults, a blog by Kara Schaff Dean

Author and co-owner of Parnassus Books Ann Patchett interviews Yashwina Canter, a “passionate young reader” who has high praise for the Cozy Classics books – “Get ‘em started early” – and says Pride and Prejudice is “the classic that made me go read all the other classics I could get my hands on, and as a result, it’s the book that made me so desperate to study English.”

Jane Austen Books Mansfield Park comic adI interviewed Amy Patterson of Jane Austen Books about “Mr. Collins, Mansfield Park, and Jane Austen for Kids.” She says, “I think it’s quite possible for a child to be too young for Austen,” but that the Austen-inspired board books are “valuable for introducing a sense of setting and tone of the novels.” When I asked her about adaptations of Mansfield Park, she said, “I have not seen any MP board books, but as it’s (un)fairly unpopular with adult readers I’d imagine children’s authors would start with the more popular titles. We already have P&P and S&S, and I’m betting the next will be Persuasion. After all, nothing is more exciting to kids than a good old-fashioned head injury.”

Enthusiasm, by Polly Schulman“JA in YA: To Jane on the 200th Anniversary of Pride and Prejudice,” by Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal. “The young adult fiction market … is overflowing quick-witted adaptations of Austen novels that are sure to delight new and longtime fans of the author.” Diaz’s list includes Enthusiasm, by Polly Schulman, Prom & Prejudice, by Elizabeth Eulberg, Spies in Prejudice, by Talia Vance, and Epic Fail, by Claire LaZebnik. She also recommends Hank Green’s video blog series “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” – “The online adaptation charmingly engages with the original’s plot, while offering fresh twists, a diverse cast and modern sensibility, and up-to-date teen speak” – along with “Welcome to Sanditon” and “Emma Approved.”

For the 200th anniversary of Mansfield Park, I reviewed Claire LaZebnik’s very funny and very smart novel The Trouble with Flirting. You can also find Lisa Galek’s review of the novel at Austenprose.com.

Jane Austen Paper Dolls“Awesome mom, possibly a Janeite.” Blog post by Deborah Yaffe about a mom who “decided to use photography, dress-up, books, crafts, cooking and field trips to teach her preschool kids about amazing women of the past,” including Jane Austen.

Crafts:

Jane Austen Paper Dolls: Four Classic Characters, by Eileen Rudisill Miller

Pride and Prejudice Paper Dolls, by Brenda Sneathen Maddox

So Jane: Crafts and Recipes for an Austen-Inspired LifeThe Activity Village site includes a Jane Austen colouring page, a worksheet, and a learn-to-draw page.

So Jane: Crafts and Recipes for an Austen-Inspired Life, by Hollie Keith and Jennifer Adams. Read Lisa Galek’s review at Austenprose.com.

Action Figure:

The Jane Austen Action Figure used to wear a green spencer, but the new one wears pink. Comes with a book (Pride and Prejudice, of course) and a quill.

Jane Austen Action FigureVideo:

You can watch “Furst Impressions,” an episode of the children’s show Wishbone, and read Kara Schaff Dean’s analysis of it at her blog From JA to YA.

Dean says that “this is an adaptation which genuinely attempts to reach its audience, not just wink slyly at the parents.”

And you can read Eleanor Hersey Nickel’s essay on “Furst Impressions” in the Winter 2013 issue of Persuasions On-Line: “When Darcy is a Dog: How Wishbone Introduces Children to Jane Austen.”

Nickel writes, “The Wishbone episode is not only appropriate for children but lacks many of the Hollywood clichés and the ‘harlequinization’ that frustrate scholars about Austen films aimed at adults. … [It] provides a refreshing alternative for all viewers who appreciate the friendships, social rituals, and good manners that sustain Austen’s happy couples.”

Gruel bib

Clothing, games, cookie cutters, pens, pencils, first aid supplies, and other Austen-related things:

There’s plenty of Austen-inspired clothing for kids. I have to say I prefer the clothes that command us to “Read Austen” to the inevitable “I heart Mr. Darcy” t-shirts. And I do like the Mr. Woodhouse-inspired bib.

For babies: t-shirts, bibs, onesies, and even diapers.

P&P cookie cutters

For older children, there are almost enough t-shirts that you could wear a different one every day of the year, if you really wanted to.

If your kids love baking, they might like these Pride and Prejudice cookie cutters, featuring the famous silhouette of Jane Austen and a (less famous) silhouette of (the very famous) Mr. Darcy.

In this Austen Authors guide to Jane Austen-themed holiday gift-giving, Sharon Lathan lists several games, including Pride and Prejudice Trivia, Jane Austen playing cards, a 500-piece Jane Austen puzzle, and a Pride and Prejudice board game. For more “Jane Austen Stuff” she particularly recommends the handmade things on Etsy.com.

Lavender quill

At the Jane Austen Gift Shop in Bath, you can find child-sized bonnets, jigsaw puzzles, temporary tattoos, pencils, quill pens, and tiny copies of Austen’s hilarious History of England by a Partial, Prejudiced & Ignorant Historian. They also have an initial seal and sealing wax set – I had one of these when I was a kid and I loved it, long before I discovered Jane Austen.

There are even Jane Austen bandages, for all your cuts and scrapes. Another way of interpreting the idea of “Jane Austen therapy” — and why not introduce your kids to Austen therapy at a young age? Comes with a free temporary Austen tattoo.

Jane Austen bandages

Happy reading, and colouring, and I hope you never have to use the bandages for yourself or your kids. Please share your own recommendations below.

11 thoughts on “Jane Austen for Kids”

  1. I recommend starting at birth. The BabyLit “Pride and Prejudice” is baby H’s favourite book! Her favourite page is “five sisters.” My favourite is “ten thousand pounds a year”!!!

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    • Ah, sisters and money – two topics bound to generate interest. She’ll have fun learning more about those sisters when she’s older, I’m sure. And she’ll develop an appreciation for the ten thousand pounds as well. Have you watched any of the movies with her, or is she pretty focused on Mio Mao?

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      • I was inadvertently given this book title: Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown; it is a story about the spiritual journey and the principle characters are: Hannah, Meg, Mara and Charissa.

        I make mention of this book because of the sister aspect which brings me to Hannah and her sisters. Unsure if money played a role or not.

        I like the listing of children books to do with Jane Austen. It seems getting reading of her makes for better writers someday if that be their calling.

        I was taught long ago that the more we read makes for better writing. And so the list is extensive and stranger for me. Thank you for sharing.

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        • Thanks for visiting. Yes, absolutely, reading makes for better writing, and reading Austen is great preparation for a lifetime of reading and writing. I’m glad you like the list of Austen-inspired children’s books.

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  2. Joan Doyle said:

    Sarah,
    I love this post! As a former elementary school teacher I am interested in Jane Austen for young people. I have many of the books an items you mentioned & I am eager to start reading & collecting the rest! I only wish that these books and items were available when my girls were young!!!

    Melissa from LittleLiterary on Etsy offers cloth baby books for all 6 Austen novels. You can buy them pre-made or in DIY form. She also offers soft dolls to go with all of the characters & even a soft Pemberley!

    Melissa offers prints for the nursery and onesies & t-shirts too. She offers the same items for other authors as well.

    Also on Etsy, Katherine, from 5orsixtalents, offers delightful prints for little ones. She has a cute “Boys like Jane Austen too!” print and an adorable, “Girls like Jane Austen” print. Katherine also has Lizzy & Darcy prints. These are great for the nursery or a child’s room!

    Thanks for this jane Austen for Kids post, Sarah!! I thoroughly enjoyed it!

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    • Thanks, Joan! I’m so pleased to hear that you enjoyed this list. There’s been so much interest in recent years in finding ways to introduce Jane Austen’s life and works to children, even when they’re very young. I’m very glad to hear about the cloth baby books and dolls and the prints available on Etsy. I’m always looking for new ideas for presents for the young people in my life and it’s been such fun to explore Austen’s world in this way. Thank you for adding to the list!

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  3. Joan Doyle said:

    Thanks for your reply, Sarah! It was so nice to meet you in Phialdelphia! Your talk was very thought provoking! I hope you are having a fun and relaxing summer!

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    • It was wonderful to meet you and to get to know members of your Region, and I’m delighted that you enjoyed the talk. My favourite part was the discussion afterwards, because you all know the novels so well and had such interesting things to say about ambition. I hope you have a lovely summer and I’ll look forward to seeing you at a future JASNA meeting. Thanks for reading the blog!

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