As a former reader ahead of my time, I remember what it was like to devour every book on my girlhood bookshelves, over and over and over again, and still be left wanting more. From Harold and the Purple Crayon to Eloise at The Plaza, the bookworm in me came of age with some of the best children’s books ever written, to be sure — but what if after reading Goodnight Moon for the ten thousandth time, I had been able to dive into a little Jane Austen? Or how about Jack Kerouac’s On the Road , written for kids? What if I had been able to read Mrs. Dalloway at age six? (And, furthermore, how relieved would my mom have been to not have to explain, for once, why the Man in the Yellow Hat doesn’t have a first name? Am I right?)
These are the kinds of questions that new children’s book imprint KinderGuides seeks to answer via their series of illustrated children’s books inspired by classic literature. Concerned by mounting statistics that indicate readership is declining for many young people, even starting as early as age 8, KinderGuides has reimagined culture classics like On the Road, The Old Man and the Sea and 2001: A Space Odyssey into early learning guides for readers aged 6-12. The idea is that once young readers get a taste for these timeless works of literature, they’ll look forward to reading the original classics when they’re older, ultimately leading to a lifelong love of reading.
“It’s not about growing up quickly,” says KinderGuides co-founder Fredrik Colting, “but rather about sowing that seed of appreciation for classic literature at an early age. Classics are classics for a reason, but they will only live on if future generations embrace them.”
Each slim, beautifully illustrated book opens with a quote from the original text, followed by a brief description of the classic author — where he or she was from, what made them a unique writer, and any details that might make timeless icons like Truman Capote or Jack Kerouac relatable to someone just learning how to read. While sticking true to the overall plot and themes of the original classics, the rewritten stories are condensed, simplified, and educational for young readers. After the story, each book features a brief description of the main characters, a glossary of key words that might be unfamiliar to a young reader (imagine trying to explain jazz, Beat generation, space pod, or Cuba to your 3rd grader), a short series of quiz questions that offer readers an opportunity to engage with the text a bit more, and a final analysis that explains (in grade school-appropriate lingo) why the story is so important in the first place. Pretty cool, right?
KinderGuides plans to publish 50 of these early learning guides. Their first four, available now, are Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Future KinderGuides include titles like Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Moby Dick by Herman Melville, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Wolf. Ten of the 50 titles have been reserved for reader suggestion, facilitated by a campaign KinderGuides will be launching in the coming months. (I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for some Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.)
The best part of all — yeah, even better than being able to read On the Road with your 8-year-old — is that part of KinderGuides’ profits go towards supporting children’s literacy programs. You can’t beat that. For more information on KinderGuides, head over to their website, here.