Brontë for Babies?

January 8, 2012 | 2

Brontë for babies? Board books, those small, sturdy volumes with the glossy cardboard “pages” – generally featuring rounded corners so babies who are teething don’t cut their gums or poke out their eyes, are getting ludicrous. A new series, we’re told on the back covers, “is a fashionable way to introduce your child to the world of classic literature.”

is an intern for The Millions. She was born in Los Angeles and is currently earning her MFA in Creative Nonfiction at The New School. Her work can be found at and at her blog, Follow Rachel on Twitter @rachelmariehurn.


  1. Every one of those stories was written in some form before Bronte, and rewritten again after. Distilling them down to board book length is just outlining the story, not showing the wonderful writing and story structure.

    That doesn’t introduce them to the world of classic literature, but to the authors who wrote classic literature and some character names.

    I would rather introduce my daughter to reading, writing, story-telling and wait until she is ready to read the original Bronte than give her some watered-down, 25 sentence version in the hopes that … I don’t know what the hopes are.

  2. While they’re being marketed to parents with babies, the more likely reader/collector will be Bronte lovers. It’s book-as-artifact or book-as-art. But beyond that, I see no harm in reading this pretty book to a baby. Maybe, someday, a girl’s memory will be jarred by the word “Governess” or, I’m speculating since I haven’t seen the content of this book in question, “heather,” “gypsy,” or “moor” and be compelled to seek out the authentic novel for herself. Wouldn’t a baby board book series celebrating broadly the sweep of a classic novel, for whatever purpose, be just as valuable as one introducing shapes, colors, the alphabet, or Bible stories? After all, it’s really just another story.

    When I was in the fourth grade, my grandmother told me Jane Eyre had always been her favorite novel when she was a girl. Then she showed me where the old edition was on the family bookshelf, not pushing me, but simply showing me that it was available when I wanted it. I was sucked right in. Early influence was invaluable, at least in my case. I’m not sure a baby board book could wield that kind of power, but it surely won’t damage anyone and might sprinkle some seeds of interest for later.

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