Her black gown with the magnificent laces was only an accessory, was only a frame for her.Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
Some weeks call for picture books instead of heavy novels or nonfiction, and this was one of those weeks. Today I am talking about Anna Karenina: A Fashion Primer by Jennifer Adams and illustrated by Alison Oliver. I was given this charming little board book this week and I love it. It’s part of the “BabyLit” series of board books inspired by classic literature.
Most of the time, I’m not a fan of picture book, much less board book, retellings of classic novels. I mean, how do you remotely make something as complex as Anna Karenina accessible (or not depressing) for children who can barely talk yet in about a dozen pages? And why even try? What I love about the BabyLit series is that they really don’t try to tell the story. Each one is a themed “primer”. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is colors, Emma is feelings, The Secret Garden is flowers, etc. Instead of even trying to tell the story, the original work is simply used as an inspiration point for the primer theme – presumably to make the book as interesting for the adults as for the child reading it.
Anna Karenina is filled with lavish descriptions of Anna’s clothing, so a fashion primer makes perfect sense. The book has bright pages highlighting different items of clothing – boots, hat, gown, buttons, parasol, etc. Some are accompanied by a quote from the book that could be easily read or easily skipped as desired. It is filled with beautiful images and a fun set of fashion-themed words that could easily amuse adults and toddlers alike.
I love this series and this is one of my favorites from it. The art is fantastic and there is no reason the child needs to know anything at all about the inspiration books (even that they are books), but it gives a fun extra layer to the adults reading them.