Introduce Your Kids to Classic Literature with KinderGuides
We’ve been reading a lot of classic literature around our house recently, and it’s because we’ve gotten our hands on an amazing collection of picture books called KinderGuides. These beautifully-illustrated picture books summarize some of the best novels of all time - books like Pride and Prejudice and Moby Dick - and, best of all, they’re designed to be accessible and appealing to kids.
Disclosure: Moppet Books provided us with copies of the KinderGuides in order to allow for this article. We only choose to write about things we love, and all thoughts and opinions are our own.
I have a soft spot for the greats of classic literature. I earned my degree in English - with no rhyme or reason to my decision other than the fact that I love to read good books and write about them. My personal library was built mostly by visiting the university bookstore every semester and buying all of the novels being read in every course, whether or not I was enrolled in the class or not.
Now that I’m a father of two, I have grand plans about introducing our kids to some of my favorite classics - broken up as bedtime read alouds. But, let’s be honest with ourselves, my 6-year-old and my 3-year-old aren’t ready for anything like the original versions of Moby Dick or Romeo and Juliet yet.
And that’s why it’s so nice to have high-quality picture books of these classics. Melissa Medina and Fredrik Colting have done a great job summarizing these books for the little ones - and now you can introduce them to your kids in a single sitting.
I’m a big proponent of imagination and trying to provide a little magic in childhood. And stories are perhaps the very best way to flex those imagination muscles in our children. There’s a scene in The Neverending Story where Bastian rattles off a list of the books he’s read to Mr. Koreander to defend his love for literature:
I've read Treasure Island, Last of the Mohicans, The Wizard of Oz, Lord of the Rings, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Tarzan...
I definitely want my kids to be able to proudly rattle off a list like that too. But some of the very best stories we have in our culture are kept out-of-reach from our children - behind walls like shakespearian language and the fact that authors used to be paid by the word.
Why the KinderGuides Picture Books are Great for Kids
Classic literature by no means should be reserved for high school and college. Many of these great stories should be passed down to our kids as soon as possible. You only get one childhood to enjoy story time - and these are some of the best stories we got.
The essence of these stories can easily be passed along in one sitting - just like we’re telling tales around a campfire. And that little taste is all a young one needs from these classics to plant a new seed in their minds and grow their imagination.
But I also like the KinderGuides for many more reasons on top of the fact that they make classic literature accessible. One of my favorite things about the KinderGuides in particular is that they’re actually designed as early learning guides to classic literature. They’re almost like having SparkNotes - but 1000 times more engaging and beautiful.
Much more than just being illustrated versions of the classics, each book ends with a list of main characters and key words, a quiz about the story, and even a short analysis of the themes. I particularly love the quizzes - because I am always pleasantly surprised to find out just how much our kids absorb when they’re listening to a story.
And the absolute highlight of the KinderGuides for me has to be the illustrations. Every single book has a different illustrator, and they are all spectacular. Even though the illustrator changes every time - and each book boasts of its own personal charm - a common theme of bright colors and slightly abstract drawings still ties the whole series together. They really look great together as a set.
A word of caution, however, if you’re shopping for young ones. These books are still very faithful to their source material. Just as many people die in Romeo and Juliet as you remember, and Moby Dick obviously features some whale hunting. You might want to keep in mind for very young children that the illustrations of these things even show some blood.
So, while all of these books are gorgeous and very accessible to kids, you still need to make up your own mind about when to expose your children to certain themes. But we decided our 6-year-old was ready for all of these stories, and, generally speaking, I think 6+ sounds about right as an age recommendation. Reading the analysis together at the end is very helpful, because it spells out the books’ themes - like how hate and an obsession with revenge always lead to bad things.
Our son picked up on another funny theme while we were reading Pride and Prejudice. “Why’s everyone always talking about getting married in this book?” he asked. Of course, he has a good point. And it’s a good reminder that it can be important to talk about those important themes while you’re reading. If you aren’t careful, all that talk about getting married for money might make a bigger impression than the real lesson - Elizabeth speaking her mind and insisting on marrying for love.
Our Favorite KinderGuides Picture Books
After reading through all of these classics, our family voted on our favorites. I had a good feeling that our son would love the many adventures of Odysseus in The Odyssey, and I was right. It was definitely his favorite. But Around the World in Eighty Days was a close second for him. Our 3-year-old said her favorite was Pride and Prejudice, but, to be fair, she didn’t get to hear some of the more violent ones, and I think she just thought it was silly that everyone kept talking about getting married all the time.
My wife’s favorite was Jane Eyre, and I’m pretty partial to the spooky gothic atmosphere in that one too. But I think I have to vote for Romeo and Juliet. Even though tragedies make me feel sick to my stomach and I want everything to turn out well even if I know it won’t - it’s hard to deny how great of a story it is. I’m very happy to have such a beautiful, accessible version of it.
Which Books Are Available in the KinderGuides Series?
There are currently 6 picture books available in the KinderGuides series and 1 due to release next year. (The following links are affiliate links and will take you to view the books’ listings on Amazon.com)
Don Quixote (March 2020)
I’m extremely happy to see the series continue and I can’t wait to see which classic novels KinderGuides tackles next. (In case anyone out there is listening, I vote for Beowulf, A Little Princess, Les Miserables, Great Expectations, and Lord of the Rings.)
Introducing our children to some of these masterpieces at such a young age is a true pleasure. And seeing the talented artists’ interpretations of these stories is a joy for me as well. And they look so good on the shelf together. I’m happy to see that grow - and to improve our little ones’ access to these incredible stories.
Have you read any of the KinderGuides? Have you introduced your kids to any classic books yet? Let us know their favorite in the comments!