KinderGuides are illustrated versions of adult classics for younger readers published by Moppet Books, a new publishing company founded by Melissa Medina and Fredrik Colting. Almost like a CliffsNotes version, but for younger readers, KinderGuides offers its readers a breakdown of a classic with sections about the author, a story summary, a section about the main characters, some illustrated key words, quiz questions, and an analysis designed for kids. The target age of the books is 6 and up, although they seem more appropriate for ages 8 and up based on the word choice and analysis. The first four books published are 2001: A Space Odyssey, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, On the Road, and The Old Man and the Sea. The plan is to turn 50 of the greatest classics into children’s learning guides, including: The Alchemist, Anna Karenina, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, The Fountainhead, Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, Animal Farm and Catch 22. These titles don’t fit the mold of illustrated classics for kids and vary widely in terms of content. In an interview with Publishers Weekly Medina and Colting said their books will focus on the essence of the classics and stay away from the details that are inappropriate for children. So On The Road, for example, becomes an adventurous road trip; which makes me wonder how the other classics will fare. If the focus of the learning guides is only on the essence, can’t that essence be found in children’s literature published now? Alison Flood’s article in The Guardian points out that children’s literature is full of magnificent titles already, and she questions whether children need to read watered down versions of classics, when children’s literature offers its own classics and new classics in the making. There are amazing titles created specifically for kids, that deal with similar, if not the same themes, so is there a need to reimagine adult classics, and isn’t this already being done to different degrees? In the Publishers Weekly interview Medina and Colting talked about discovering a gap in the market that their books fill, but that seems to discount the reimagined classics for children found in places like BabyLit, Cozy Classics published by Chronicle Books, or Little Literary Classics, as well as others. Which brings me to my biggest question about KinderGuides: was there really a gap that needed to be filled?
When I looked at The Old Man and the Sea, the first thing that stood out to me was the design. The pictures by Maggie Chiang are impressive; bold, bright colors engage the reader and draw them into the story adding subtle clues to the text. The publishers used the design of the books to bring attention to specific educational goals; for example: changing font size highlighting themes in the analysis, although only some themes of the book were used, or illustrated sections with main characters and key words at the end. It would have been great if these had been linked to educational standards. The included quiz could have been more varied, as well, to reflect higher level thinking skills so it would have been more useful in an educational setting. This learning guide is longer, at 48 pages, than the average picture book. The story summary retold the basic plot of Hemmingway’s famed tale in 30 pages. Santiago, an older down on his luck fisherman, hasn’t caught a fish in many days. He heads far out to sea and catches a large marlin. Sharks attack and eat the marlin that is lashed to his boat, but Santiago is finally able to return to shore, where, exhausted he falls into bed. The original version of The Old Man and the Sea is a book that I love. Having read the original multiple times, I struggled while reading this, and wondered why some parts were kept out of the summary and others were included. I love the idea of sharing literature and a love of reading with children, and while I can see how others might want to use these books, for myself personally I will stick with sharing children’s books with children rather than watered down classics. I want the children I teach and my own child to experience the classics in their complete beauty, not through the lens of someone else’s interpretation.
Published by Sarah BooksBeforeBandaids