“On one side was a table, occupied by some chattering girls, cutting up silk and gold paper; and on the other were tressels and trays, bending under the weight of brawn and cold pies, where riotous boys were holding high revel; the whole completed by a roaring Christmas fire, which seemed determined to be heard, in spite of all the noise of the others.”–Persuasion, Volume 2, chapter 2.
Part 1, Jane Austen Christmas Presents, listed some Christmas gifts for teens and adults. Today, I’ll give you some ideas for younger children as well as teens. Here are ways you can introduce them to Jane Austen and her novels and her world.
Of course, the best way, IMHO, is through books!
I have been reading Austen’s novels aloud to my older granddaughters (ages 12 and 15), and they have enjoyed them very much. While I read, they either sew, or color in an Austen coloring book, or cut out Austen paper dolls. Of course, as I read I explain any difficult words or concepts. When we finish a book, I choose an appropriate movie of that book and we watch it together. We are all loving this introduction to Jane Austen!
Toddlers and Young Children: Board books
BabyLit, fun board books for ages 3-7:
- Pride and Prejudice: A BabyLit Storybook,
- Sense and Sensibility: A BabyLit Opposites Primer,
- Emma: A BabyLit Emotions Primer,
- Pride and Prejudice: A BabyLit Counting Primer (my grandkids have loved this one over the years; there’s also a newer version including a playset)
- BabyLit also offers a Mr. Darcy puzzle and a Darcy doll, and other great classics like Anne of Green Gables and Little Women.
Little People, Big Dreams Jane Austen: This looks like a delightful story of Austen’s life, with big pictures, for ages 4-7.
Goodnight, Mr. Darcy, also from BabyLit, is a “parody board book,” based on Goodnight, Moon and Pride and Prejudice. I think it’s delightful, but I’m not sure toddlers would understand it!
Lit for Little Hands: Pride and Prejudice looks like a wonderful simple retelling of the story, also in a board book for ages 3-6.
Older Kids, about ages 8-12
Gill Tavner’s series: My grandchildren and I have very much enjoyed these illustrated retellings of Austen’s novels. They include Emma, Persuasion, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility.
Awesomely Austen, by Katherine Woodfine, retells Austen’s novels in simpler English with funny illustrations. Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion all look like great fun.
Sweet Cherry Easy Classics by Gemma Barder also offer easy-to-read versions of Mansfield Park, Emma, Pride and Prejudice, and the other novels, also available in a complete set including Love and Friendship and a story journal, for grades 4-6. I got Mansfield Park for my granddaughter. It tells a story which I’d call similar to Austen’s story, though a number of details have been changed. Still, it makes a complete story for a young reader.
Jane Austen: The Girl with the Magic Pen, by Gill Hornby, also tells Austen’s story, with a quiz at the end.
The Usborne Complete Jane Austen retells all the novels, plus “Lady Susan,” for young readers.
Seek and Find Classics: Pride and Prejudice, illustrated by Amanda Enright, tells the story through seek and find pictures.
Jane Austen: Her Heart Did Whisper, by Manuela Santoni, is a graphic fictional biography of Austen.
Mr. Darcy’s Night Before Christmas is a parody of the famous poem.
- Pride and Prejudice, a lovely set of dolls and clothing, which my granddaughters have enjoyed
- Dress-Up Jane Austen
- Jane Austen Paper Dolls
- Fashions of the Regency Period Paper Dolls
Kids and Teens
Jane Austen for Kids: Her Life, Writings, and World, with 21 Activities, by Nancy I. Sanders. I recently got a copy of this and it looks wonderful. The activities seem to be more teenage level, though younger kids could do them with parental help. Each section tells quite a bit about Austen, her world, and her writing. A good section explores her faith. Activities range from learning a country dance, to acting out a short play Austen wrote, to sewing a reticule.
Jane Austen’s “Juvenilia,” stories she wrote in her younger years, are often very funny. Juvenilia Press has issued most of them in hilarious illustrated versions. Some that I think kids and teens might enjoy:
- The Beautifull Cassandra, illustrated by Juliet McMaster (This is out of print, but you may find used copies. It’s a delight!)
- Frederic & Elfrida
- The Three Sisters
- Love and Freindship (for teens)
Where’s Jane?, by Rebecca Smith and Katy Dockrill, will have readers searching for Jane among scenes from her novels. Summaries of the stories are also included.
Jane Austen Coloring Books: an online search will show many options for kids, teens, and adults.
Austen’s Novels: Older kids and teens will be able to read Austen’s novels in the original; illustrated versions might be the most fun. Some might enjoy audio versions, or movie versions (though be careful; not all the movies are appropriate for kids, unfortunately. Look at reviews and ratings before buying movies for kids.) And some teens will enjoy the gift options in my previous post.
[Note: Many of these books I haven’t read, but I’m trying to give many options. Most of these books are available from both Amazon and Jane Austen Books; the links just depend on where I found the book.]
Gifts help make Christmas a special time for children. But family time together, singing, worship, and special foods also make it a special time. In our family, we have a pastry for breakfast and sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus and “Joy to the World.” What helps make Christmas special for you and your children?