Jane Austen (Little People, BIG DREAMS)

Jane Austen (Little People. BIG DREAMS) by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara

Another Jane Austen biography for children?

What can I say?

But before I start my review, let me pause and say:

Happy Birthday Jane Austen!

Yes, today marks her 246th birthday, and I thought what better way to celebrate than by reviewing a Jane Austen biography.

This year for my littlest niece’s (5 years old) Christmas gift, I bought her some tiny tea cups that she could have tea with. You see when she visited this summer I converted her to a love of tea and tea parties and want to reenforce that as much as possible.

Party time!

Of course something else I am trying to brainwash encourage in the younger members of my family is a love of Jane Austen. I had already bought this niece the Babylit books and needed something else Jane Austen related that fit her age. I thought about gifting her the same book I gave my 10 year old niece, A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice, but decided to wait as that book was more advanced and designed for older children. Instead I starting searching for something suitable for a 5 year old.

Hmm…?

I started searching through Amazon (I don’t have a local bookstore) and found this biography from the Little People, BIG DREAMS series. It looked cute so I ordered it, and of course had to give it a quick read and review.

I really liked the amount of pictures to text this book had as it was a great balance for a children’s book. It gave a basic biography in easy to understand terms, while still telling a cute story that children in the age range of 4-7 years will enjoy following.

I also loved how it highlighted her playwriting and the way her family would act her works out.

But the thing I enjoyed most of all about this book is that instead of just mentioning Pride and Prejudice or Elizabeth Bennet, it actually highlights all the heroines of her novels. You hardly ever see anything that mentions Fanny Price/Mansfield Park, Catherine Morland/Northanger Abbey, or Anne Elliot/Persuasion in kids books and I’m so happy this one did. I need to lay the groundwork for Northanger Abbey.

If there are parents, or kids, who are interested in knowing more about Jane Austen, there is an expanded short biography in the back of the book.

I thought it was a cute book and a great one for kids.

If interested in purchasing, click on this link. (If you do choose to purchase through the link provided, a small percentage does go to me through the Amazon affiliate program).

For more Jane Austen children’s books, go to A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice

For more Jane Austen biographies, go to Jane Austen: Her Heart Did Whisper

For more picture books, go to How the Queen Found the Perfect Cup of Tea

A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice

A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice by Jasmine A. Stirling

I have been meaning to write this review since July, when I purchased this book for my niece, but it just seems like every time I try to sit down and write it something gets in the way. Don’t you hate when that happens?

But no longer, I am happy to finally post my review of this book.

Back in August of 2020, Jasmine Stirling reached out to me regarding her new children’s book on Jane Austen. As part of a lead up to the release of her book, she was reaching out to various Jane Austen bloggers, writers, etc.; and creating a resource center for parents and children wanting to learn more about Jane Austen.

She asked if she could interview me, and I agreed. It was the first time I have ever been interviewed and I found it to be such an honor, especially as she included me alongside some powerful Austen players. I have copied the interview below:

What Jane Austen film adaptation do you think would most appeal to kids?

Me: For a modern adaption, I believe Clueless is probably one of the best gateways into Jane Austen. It is funny, has great lines, and is something that teens will immediately love. Another great modern adaption of Jane Austen for kids is The Lizzie Bennet Diaries as it is a series of short videos (something they are more used to watching with tiktok, Snapchat, etc.) and with it being told in the format of a Youtuber, kids can easily connect to it and the story. For a Regency adaption I would suggest Sense and Sensibility (1995) to start with. While Sense and Sensibility (1995) is an older adaptation it has really good pacing with comedy and drama. Kids can sometimes find it hard to connect to period drama but this has romance, drama, grief, mean girls, etc.

What’s a kid-friendly Regency or Jane Austen-related activity, craft or other entertainment you might suggest for families to try?

Me: I love crafts so I have a few suggestions. One easy and fun craft to do is make silhouettes of each other as kids will love tracing each other and having themselves traced. Another cute craft is to make paper fans or paper boats. Or if your children enjoy playing with dolls making paper dolls, felt dolls, or clothespin dolls is also something they will always find fun.

If you know how to to embroider or sew, working on a group project together-such as making a quilt, pillows, hand towels, tea towels, pillowcases, etc.-is also something you can do.

What’s one thing you love about Jane Austen? Why?

Me: There are two things I absolutely love about Jane Austen. The first is that I love the pacing and plotting of her books and the balance between drama and comedy. All her novels have extremely somber or heart wrenching moments; along with comedic lines or hilarious scenes. She also always knew how to end a chapter leaving you wanting more.

The other thing I love about her books is how the stories and characters transcend Regency England so that the motifs, personalities, and points raised in her books are still relevant today. Who hasn’t meet a social climber like Caroline Bingley? A schemer like Lucy Steele? Manipulators like Isabella and John Thorpe? Had a regret like Anne Elliot? Met a flirt like Henry Crawford? Known a person who wanted so badly to have a friend they did whatever someone asked of them like Harriet Smith? Haven’t we all been accused of being an ice queen like Elinor Dashwood? Let our heart rule our actions like Marianne Dashwood? Misjudged someone and actively disliked a person when they insulted you like Elizabeth Bennet? Had to make a choice whether to stick to what we believe in, even if it meant losing something you hold dear like Fanny Price? Disliked someone because they were better than you at some things like Emma Woodhouse? Let our imaginations run away with us like Catherine Morland? I think one of the reasons we still read Jane Austen 200 years later is that it is so easy to connect to her work.

How do you share your love of Austen with children?

Me: I do not have kids but that hasn’t stopped me from sharing Jane Austen. For little ones I like to gift the Babylit Jane Austen books by Jennifer Adams. They are on different subjects like numbers and emotions, but each book features characters or items from the novels. I first read Jane Austen when I turned 16 and it has now become a tradition for me to gift one of her novels when someone I know turns 16. I am also always trying to encourage my nieces to read or watch Jane Austen, and there are a lot of adaptions out there that make great gifts. With so many fans of Jane Austen you have a lot to choose from, both from modern adaptions and her works.

The picture book was released in March, but I decided to wait to purchase it until my niece’s birthday in July. The age range recommended for this book is 5-9, but as my niece was turning 10 and still enjoyed reading picture books from time to time, I thought she might enjoy this too.

When the book arrived, I of course had to read it first and I really liked it. First of all it had beautiful illustrations, I really enjoyed Vesper Stamper’s style.:

I also liked that this book had a lot of information on the Jane Austen and her family, yet it wasn’t overpowering or too much for children to understand, and it did have additional information in the back of the book for anyone wanting to know a bit more. I felt it was a beautiful and great beginning biography to brainwash share with the children in your life.

One thing I have noticed in recent Jane Austen children’s biographies is that many authors go overboard trying to make Jane “ahead of her time” or that she was so “progressive” she “rebelled” against society disliking needlepoint or other feminine things, etc. I definitely didn’t feel that with this picture book was trying to paint her in any particular way, it felt like an honest portrayal of Jane Austen, written by someone who is a fan of her works.

My niece doesn’t typically read nonfiction books, but when she opened her gift she was immediately drawn to the illustrations, and read through it quickly, reading it again later, much slower.

I definitely recommend this book for the child in your life. I think it would be a perfect addition for any child’s bookshelf.

For more Jane Austen children’s books, go to Little Literary Classics Mansfield Park Cloth Book

For more Jane Austen biographies, go to Jane Austen: Her Heart Did Whisper

For more picture books, go to How the Queen Found the Perfect Cup of Tea

Jane Austen: Her Heart Did Whisper

Jane Austen: Her Heart Did Whisper by Manuela Santoni

So we added this at the library and I was jazzed for it-Jane Austen biography? In graphic novel?

It seems like a win win to me!

But it wasn’t-I did not like it.

I’ve read several Jane Austen biographies, books and online, and I really enjoyed read Just Jane last year. I do not know everything about Jane, but I feel enough to know that this had quite a bit of historical inaccuracies it.

Hmmm

It also felt like they wanted to make her “ahead of her times” but it just feels like something we have seen before and not as if the author really was trying to show Jane, who this book is supposed to be about. Like how Nostalgia Critic words it in the Alice in Wonderland review.

It starts off with Jane sick at the end of her life writing a letter and thinking back on her life.

Hmm…

We go back to them as girls and Jane hates the piano playing:

But in reality, she enjoyed piano playing. From The Jane Austen Centre:

“Jane, studied with the respected composer and organist, William Chard well into her twenties, long after most girls would have given up their lessons. After that point, it was up to the student to progress if she wished, on her own. Jane owned a small piano at various times during her life and, when this was not an option, rented one. She played for her own enjoyment and would rise an hour before the rest of the family in order to get her practicing done.”

And Santoni has her hate doing embroidery:

But she was extremely talented at it, most likely loved it. From Jane Austen’s House Museum:

“Like all women of her time and class, Jane Austen learnt to sew in childhood and gained a life-long skill. Sewing was something she was particularly good at. In 1796 Austen wrote in a letter that she was “the neatest worker” of a group making shirts for one of her brothers. Edward Austen-Knight remembered of his aunt that “Her needlework both plain and ornamental was excellent, and might almost have put a sewing machine to shame. She was considered especially great in satin stitch.”

And I am currently reading Praying With Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen by Rachel Dodge and she shares this in Day 5:

“From this description, we see that while Jane sat and worked (needlework) quietly, lines, descriptions, and plot ideas for her novels came to her in delightful bursts.”

“She [Jane Austen] could have declared needlework a boring, repetitive task and herself too intelligent for such menial jobs. Instead she appears to have spent the time in happy reflection.”

I am so sick and tired of authors being like, oh I want my historical character to be modern and powerful so she will hate embroidery. Why? Why is music revered, painting treated as a superpower, sewing something to be proud of-but embroidery is treated like dirt. Embroidery is a lot of hard work, amazing art, and takes blood, sweat, and sometimes tears to create.

Santoni gives Jane unruly curled hair that just seems to show again that she is “modern” eschewing society’s idea of how women should be.

So the story has Jane proposed to twice and she turns them both down, but in real life she only officially ever received one formal proposal, when she was 27, from Harris Bigg-Wither-but the next day refuses him.

Santoni also has Jane fall in love with Tom Lefoy, he propose, she accepts, and then turn him down as she can’t be a wife and mother but has decided to be a writer. Now there is a bit of leeway here as Cassandra Austen destroyed a lot of Jane’s letters, but she seems to ignore what history we do know.

Thats not right!

It even says at the end of the book “many suitors asked for my hand…” I found this hard to believe as there is no historical proof to confirm this, along with the fact that she had no dowry and very little to entice someone to marriage. I felt like did Santoni do any research? She says she is a Jane Austen fan, but it seems she was making up her own story and characters.

Yeah, not as good as Just Jane

For more Jane Austen biographies, go to Just Jane

For more Jane Austen inspired books, go to Rational Creatures: Catherine Morland, Eleanor Tilney, & Lady Susan

For more Jane Austen inspired work, go to Northanger Soapworks Review

Just Jane

So you all know that I love Jane Austen, she’s the best.

So whenever I find anything that has to do with Austen I snag it.

So one day I was perusing the local bookstore on my day off. The day before had been an extremely hard day so I wanted something to help me feel better.

You know nothing makes me happier than reading.

As I was perusing the shelves, I spotted a book about Jane Austen and just had to purchase it and read it.

I then put it on my to-read pile and forgot all about it.

But as I was moving, I went through my to-read pile and had to read it.

Just Jane (Ladies of History #2) by Nancy Moser

So the book begins with Jane Austen as a young lady at a ball and her infatuation with Tom Lefroy, the man she based Mr. Darcy and Captain Fredrick Wentworth, going all the way to her death, following the completion of Persuasion. 

The book is an intense delight and I recommend it for any Austen fan. Moser is able to blend the historical context, the quotes from her letters, and out it all together in a fun and intriguing narrative that I couldn’t stop reading.

We get to see inside Austen’s head, and view her process and take the path of her life and creation of her amazing books.

We get to experience her heartache, sadness, grief, etc. I love how Moser captures her essence as a girl trying to figure out her future, try to find love, find her place in her family, and worry about what she can do to help her household along with her as an author-the creative struggles, the pains and long journey of bringing an idea into a real novel, and the sorrows and joy of printing process.

We also get a great view of her family, the research done well and bringing certain things I had not known to my attention, and blogging of course.

Moser never claims that one fictional character is solely based on Austen or those she knows-instead she leaves it open to the reader as there is a delight in spotting what real life situations or people could be different characters or events that occur in the book.

It beautifully shows the Regency period, the things we see in films that makes us want to go back, along with detailing the realities that we are happy we no longer have to face.

There will be many posts that have come or will be coming in the future that have to do with something that caught my eye in the reading.

So once again, let me say-if you love Jane Austen and you want something that has life over just the facts, this book is for you. It was a great read and kept you wanting to see what happened next and read more about Jane’s real life and her family.

“Four, five people have been so honoured?’ She shook her head. ‘Tis deplorable, Jane. Hundred, yea even thousands, must enjoy your work.” pg 117

For more on Jane Austen’s life, go to Jane, Jane, Jane: A Jane Austen Biography

For something interesting from Just Jane, go to By the Sea

For more Regency Era, go to Desire & Decorum: Chapter 2, The Ties That Bind

The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen

cambridgecompanionjaneausten

The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen compiled by editors Edward Copeland and Juliet McMaster. 2003 (originally printed in 1997).

I read this book a while back, but am only now able to write a review of it. This volume contains a brief biography of Austen’s life: her as a writer; essays on Northanger Abbey, Sense & Sensibility, and Pride & Prejudice; Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion; Austen’s short stories; the Austen letters; class-consciousness in her works; economy of the culture; religion and politics; her style in the novels; the significance of her juvenile works; and Austen cults/cultures.

The Lovely Jane

The Lovely Jane

I thought this book was…okay. Some of the essays had really interesting points about Jane Austen or her work.

StarTrekFascinatingSpockinteresting

While others seemed to rehashed old concepts that you already knew. Although, in this book’s defense I think that was mostly due to age as it was published almost twenty years ago. At the time of publication I’m sure all the ideas in were new concepts at the time and just have now just seeped into the general knowledge. I do think it is worth a read if you are looking for more information on Jane Austen or a deeper look into her works.

However, the essay that I did not care for was the one on Northanger Abbey, by Rachel M. Brownstein.

Something is not right!

In Brownstein‘s essay she writes about how Northanger Abbey  is a parody of the romantic genre that was popular at Austen’s time, that I agreed with.

Northanger Abbey in a way is a rewrite of The Female Quixote or The Adventures of Arabella by Charlotte Lennox. In fact, I agreed with a lot of what Browenstein wrote in her essay, such as how Austen made fun of the romantic tropes, and was quite snarky in her writing. Today she would have fit in on Youtube, right next to Nostalgia Critic or someone of a similar tone.

Here's to another 200 years!

The part I disagreed with was what she wrote about Mr. Tilney.

In her essay she details that how Mr. Tilney is the most “feminine” of the Austen heroes because he is interested in muslin (something only for a woman), novels, and is dominated and intimidated by his manly father. I however, feel he is no less masculine than any other Austen man.

heading-banner11970857801243195263Andy_heading_flourish.svg.hi

1)Interest in Muslin

tilneyonmuslin

Catherine has just met Mr. Henry Tilney who is unlike any man she has met or read in books. Instead of being tall, dark, and brooding; he is jovial, saracastic, witty, hilarious, etc. No reserve for him.

They begin on the subject of muslin by Mrs. Allen who is speaking on her muslin dress and how she would hate for it to be torn. It is a favorite of hers and cost but nine shillings a yard. Henry shares that he would have guessed that as he is a great judge of muslin, as he buys his own cravats and sometimes his sister’s gowns.

Now there are many ways to look at this conversation:

1. Henry is a Down to Earth Man

jjfeildhenrytilney

Henry Tilney is a middle son. He knows that like most middle children, he will not inherit as much as her older brother but instead is expected to make his own fortune or marry rich.

workhardforthemoney

He chose the church as a profession, and while he will live comfortably he won’t be a millionaire, unless he marries a wealthy person. Depending on what living he is granted and who his patron is, he could have several servants or he might have to take care of a few duties himself. Also before he is married and has a wife to run the house, he will need to be in charge and know how best to budget and stay within his means.

He also might want to purchase the time of cravats he likes. Sometimes you can ask another to pick up a specific material or item, but that doesn’t always mean your servants will follow through. Maybe he likes a particular type and would rather pick it up himself?

2. Henry is a Good Brother

northangerabbeyeleanorhenrytilney

Eleanor Tilney is the youngest of the Tilney clan. She is very reserved and quiet; due to her father General Tilney’s tyrannical ways. We know that the father emotionally abused the mother with his attitude and temperament, being a vampire of spirit, and it is easily concluded that he did the same with his daughter. Because of this, Eleanor doesn’t have many friends, the only ones seeming to be her brother Henry, and then later Catherine.

The eldest Tilney, Captain Fredrick Tilney, is a lot like his father. He is no friend of Eleanor; leaving Henry to shoulder the big brother responsibilities and to be the protector of his sister. Like Mr. Darcy, there are probably a ton of different things he does for his sister, buying her clothing the least of it.

pride&prejudicedarcygeorgianapiano

3. Henry is Being Sarcastic

mrtilneynorthangerabbeysass

This is most likely the real reasoning behind the conversation with Mrs. Allen. We know that Mr. Tilney has a wicked sense of humor. He is sarcastic, funny, and likes going against society (not 100% but a mini rebellion).

Right before this exchange he and Catherine are discussing her time in Bath, with Mr. Tilney sassily and snarkily making fun of how society expects such bland converstion (much of how Elizabeth does when she and Darcy dance in Pride & Prejudice).

I [Mr. Tilney] have hitherto been very remiss, madam, in the proper attentions of a partner here; I have not yet asked you how long you have been in Bath; whether you were ever here before; whether you have been at the Upper Rooms, the theatre, and the concert; and how you like the place altogether. I have been very negligent-but are you now at leisure to satisfy me in these particulars? If you are I will begin directly.’

[Catherine Moreland] ‘You need not give yourself that trouble sir.’

[Mr. Tilney] ‘No trouble I assure you, madam.’ Then forming his features in a set smile, and affectedly softening his voice, he added, with a simpering air, ‘Have you been long in Bath, madam?’

‘About a week, sir. ‘ replied Catherine, trying not to laugh.

Really!’ [said Mr. Tilney] with affected astonishment.

Why should you be surprised. sir?’ [asked Catherine]

Why, indeed!’ said he, in his natural tone. ‘But some emotion must appear to be raised by your reply, and surprise is more easily assumed…

This teasing continues for a while, with Catherine trying her best to withold her laughter.

tilney dating 888982326_n

So we know that Mr. Tilney is a kidder. He likes to joke around, and he likes to be sassy; it is easy to believe that his remarks on muslin are all just one big joke. That he actually knows nothing at all, but is just being sarcastic again.

SarcasmWayofLife

Maybe he decided to play along with what Mrs. Allen is saying as he is in a silly/sarcastic mood, trying to make Catherine laugh once again. We know he likes to tease, and make fun of other’s foibles (eccentricities) so it is easy to conclude that.

Well, whether he knows his muslin, is a good brother, or just making fun. Mrs. Allen believes he knows his stuff, and that is good enough for me.

tilney on muslin

heading-banner11970857801243195263Andy_heading_flourish.svg.hi

2) Dominated by His Father

How do I describe General Tilney?

Jerk

He pretended to be sweet, charming, and kind to win the heart of a wealthy woman, but later revealed his true colors. He was tyrannical and insisted his way was always the right one or else. He held all the power and expected his children to bow to his will or find themselves with nothing.

willy-wonka-you-get-nothingyoulose

How is this less than other Austen characters? Mr. Darcy isn’t dominated by a person, per say, but by society. He knows himself to be attracted to Elizabeth, but feels he cannot marry her as she isn’t in his class, nor does he want to be chained to her family. He does all he can to not want to be with her, but ultimately succumbs.

Mr.Darcy Pride&Prejudice

Edward Ferrars is just as dominated by the head of his family, although in this case it is his mother. Just like in the Tilney clan, you must do what Mrs. Ferrars says or risk losing it all. Edward’s mother wants him to follow a more elite career, while Edward wants to be a minister. He almost gives into his mother’s wishes; but luckily stays true to who he is.

quietofPrivateLifeSense&Sensibility

And this was something that happened a lot back then. With inheritance being the key to living comfortably, and rich relatives holding the power, more often than not people always had to bend to their will.

heading-banner11970857801243195263Andy_heading_flourish.svg.hi

3) Reading Novels

Stupid Not to Read Jane Austen Quote

In the 18th century there was what historians call the “reading revolution”. With the printing press improvements that occured then and in the early 19th century, books could be printed more easily and cheaply. Reading and owning books became a huge phenomenon as more people had the ability to purchase them.

NeverCanHaveTooManyBooks

Everything from science, to books we now call classics, novels, romance, history, to cheap thrills, etc. Such romances like The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Monk were popular, but thought to be purposely explicit and exploiting, “women’s cheap novels” but were read by all.

While it would be unusual for Mr. Tilney to admit to reading them, it is not unusual for him to actually read them as most men did. But this admittance goes with his character as we have already seen that Tilney doesn’t feel the need to be reserved, or be constructed by societal norms, but is more open in his demeanor.

Besides as this is still a romance, whether parody or remake, and as Catherine is an avid book reader, her hero has to be as much a reader as herself. After all, there is nothing sexier then meeting a man who loves to read.

guysread

heading-banner11970857801243195263Andy_heading_flourish.svg.hi

4) Never Makes a Move or Takes any Action Toward Catherine

Really?

Really?

In the essay, Brownstein declares that Mr. Tilney never had any romantic interest with Catherine, his relationship with her was all constructed or forced by his father, General Tilney. Yes, while Mr. Tilney is passive in the beginning of the novel and not the one to invite Catherine to his house (his dad does as he is trying to hook her) but what about that final scene? You know the one where he goes after Catherine and asks her to marry him risking everything for her?

tilney

Mr. Tilney is gone from the family home when Catherine is given the boot. When he returns and finds out what happened, he could have just let it go. Or he could have gone and apologized to Catherine, returning home and continuing the search for a wealthy bride. But does he do that? NO! He chooses to not only go after her, apologize for his family, but to also propose.

He is willing to throw his entire fortune away for her, not even knowing if she feels the same way about him. Unlike Edward Ferrars who is in a similar situation, Mr. Tilney doesn’t have an understanding with Catherine. He doesn’t even know if she will accept him, but he’s prepared to give it all up for her and even to to end up with nothing, having turned on his father who is not a forgiving man.

riskdish- tilney

Mr. Tilney is the only Austen hero who throws all caution to the wind, and risks everything for the woman he loves.

-prince-charming mr. tilney

heading-banner11970857801243195263Andy_heading_flourish.svg.hi

Mr. Tilney…what else can I say about you?

find mr.tilney

You are definitely hero material

heading-banner11970857801243195263Andy_heading_flourish.svg.hi

For more on Mr. Tilney, go to God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

For more on Northanger Abbey, go to Waiter, There’s Some Disney in My Jane Austen 

For more on Jane Austen, go to Jane, Jane, Jane: A Jane Austen Biography