It would be almost criminal to celebrate books and women’s history without acknowledging a woman who has done more to revolutionize books and literature than nearly any other in history. Born in 1775, Jane Austen lived a relatively simple life, the daughter of a rector/teacher, seventh of eight children, and a keen observer of the world around her.
She had some education but her family was never well-enough off to consistently provide a full education. But as a woman she was expected to learn more of the arts of needlepoint than how to make her way in the world. Instead she learned from books and experience. Using what she saw and wished for her own life she invented a new kind of story, focusing on the daily exploits of real people. In her short life she saw three of her six books published and found a bit of fame and fortune despite being a woman. Over 200 years later she is widely regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time.
Each of these fantastic books takes a slightly different tack in telling Jane’s story but both emphasize the subtle rebellion Austen displayed in writing how and what she did. Pliscou’s book has a more historical tone with lots of dates and details, while Hopkinson’s book is more story-like, echoing some of Austen’s famous lines throughout the text. Both have excellent back matter including timelines, brief synopses of her books, quotes about her from authors she inspired and sources for further study. (I have been known to judge a non-fiction book, particularly a biography, solely on the back matter…these ladies have done it right!) Both are excellent resources for getting a beginner’s look at Austen’s life.
Written by: Lisa Pliscou
Illustrated by: Jen Corage
Number of Pages: 48
Age Range: 6-10
Written by: Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrated by: Qin Leng
Number of Pages: 40
Age Range: 6-10
I’d wager she’s been adapted nearly as often, if not more often than Shakespeare. There are the faithful adaptations (like the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice) and the countless variations (like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies). And then the whole category of acknowledging the almost absurdity that is Austen fanaticism and fan-fiction (like Jane Austen Ruined My Life or Austenland). What’s your favorite take on the great lady’s work? Tell us in the comments!*
*I confess I absolutely love Persuasion, but who can pick just one?