The titles? Sense and Sensibility, Les Miserables, Moby Dick...The New York Times quotes Suzanne Gibbs Taylor, publisher and creative director of one such company as saying that she realized that no one had ever “taken Jane Austen and made it for babies.”
Hmm, that’s true. No one has ever created a line of little cocktails for toddlers, either. Or how about tiny slot machines they can play with their tooth fairy money?
According to the New York Times, “Publishers of these books are catering to parents who follow the latest advice by child-development experts to read to babies early and often, and who believe that children can display aesthetic preferences even while they are crawling and eating puréed foods.”
I read the BabyLit version of Moby Dick to Tommy, a two-year-old of my acquaintance, and asked for his reaction. He said, “Gaaa goo gung gaaaaaah!” I asked his mother whether she could interpret this response for me.
“Certainly,” she said. “What he said was that he was sad that Captain Ahab’s obsession become so all-consuming that it led to the demise of almost his entire crew.”
As if to confirm her translation, Tommy spit up a little milk.
All right, I admit it, I am being a bit unfair because these books don’t try to convey the plots of the originals, they use them to expose tiny kiddies to some core concepts.
For instance, there is Anna Karenina, A Fashion Primer. Sample page text: “Her black gown with the magnificent laces was only an accessory, was only a frame for her.”
I read this to little Tommy. His response was, "Fabulous! And from now on, please call me Mr Tommy!" He demanded paper and crayons and started work on a line of designer diapers.
Can you say “trivialize”?