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  • Where the Board Books Are

Anna Karenina: A Fashion Primer

Anna Karenina by Jennifer Adams

I'm sure many parents have noticed -- as I have -- that there has been a surge in the popularity of the BabyLit Books series. Drawing upon a particular concept, theme, or emotion, the BabyLit Books introduce the child to topics through the lens of classic adult literature. In Anna Karenina, that topic is fashion.

I have to say, I wasn't a huge fan at first glance. After all, try saying "An-na Kar-en-ina" to your toddler and see how they look at you! Puzzled? I would be too. But once you get past reading your child the titles -- Sense and Sensibility, Whuthering Heights, Les Miserables, The Odyssey, etc., you can appreciate the cleverness of the series. Of course, this doesn't mean that I don't have any complaints about the series, but as a whole, I think they're trying to both entertain adults (and in so doing, encourage adults to have fun reading to their children), while also trying to introduce children to the titles and characters of these classic stories. Needless to say, one would hope that by introducing these classic characters early, children will grow to show an interest in reading and enjoying the unabridged version as young adults.

Anna Karenina as a fashion primer is, to me, the clever part. Instead of a fashion board book that covers many decades or centuries of clothing, this board book focuses on one particular time period -- the late 19th century -- within the context of a preexisting story.

Illustration by Alison Oliver

I do, as I said, have a few complaints -- solely in regards to the illustrations (as is usually the case with me). The first illustration (below) seems like it would be frightening to a child (or at least off-putting), and the face of Anna in this particular illustration, for some reason, reminds me of a mouse. But that is only my opinion.

Illustration by Alison Oliver

Later in the book the text says "Hairpins. Can you also find flowers?" (Illustration below.) Now, there's nothing wrong with searching for hairpins and flowers but the hairpins are small, and with all the other surrounding objects I'm not convinced that a child would even notice them.

Illustration by Alison Oliver

Lastly, I am never a fan of illustration that intentionally make humans look very unnatural, and the illustration below does just that. Perhaps the illustrator was trying to make Anna look like a porcelain doll, or a character out of Frozen -- I don't know -- but the lack of three-dimensionality in her face, unnaturally enormous eyes, pursed lips, and mouse-like, tiny fingers, makes me want to skip over that page.

Illustration by Alison Oliver

All-in-all the idea of the BabyLit Books series is unique, and I think parents and children will enjoy them, especially for the vocabulary. After all, how many board books have the word "parasol" in them?

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