Friday, May 23, 2014

Cozy Up To a Good Book

I’m in heaven. My pal Cynthia introduced me to a marvelous series of board books that foster earliest literacy while planting a seed that will bloom years later. I’m talking about Cozy Classics. This series reinterprets the titans of literature—Pride and Prejudice, Moby Dick, Les Misérables, War and Peace, Jane Eyre, Oliver Twist, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer—as simple sight words (twelve words in all) juxtaposed against twelve stunningly crafted and photographed illustrations. The illustrations feature the art of felting to create characters that are placed in miniature environments. The sumptuous photographs of these tableaus invite children to enter the worlds of the stories.

From the Cozy Classics
version of Jane Eyre
Now, as I mentioned, these are not story books so much as storytelling books, the storyteller being YOU. Choose your favorite (I’m looking at you, English majors!) and share the story with your child as you introduce the youngest pre-readers to simple sight words, clearly presented, easy to master.

The book series is the creation of twin brothers Jack and Holman Wang who grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia and have been writing and illustrating books as a team since third grade. Jack has a PhD in English (what are the chances?) and is an associate professor at Ithaca College. Holman is an artist and former middle school teacher. They have two children a piece, both under five years old (the perfect age for Cozy Classics).

The real charm of the books for me is the stupendous needle felted characters. If you’re the least bit “crafty,” the sight of them will make you want to take up the needle yourself. The super-clear photography allows you to truly appreciate the texture of these precious wee folk. Taken as a whole, the Cozy Classics are just about the most beautifully realized set of sight-word books you will ever see, period.

I love the natural lighting used
in this Cozy Classics version
of Pride and Prejudice
If your child is a pre-reader, these books will introduce them to the experience of recognizing the written word while it opens their lives to stories that may very well enrich their lives forever. Big doings, I’d say. The great ideas are essentially simple ones. I love the idea of sharing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with a pre-reader. Twelve sight words later, the door is opened. Hello, Huck. I’d like to introduce you to my daughter, Julia. Please stay a while. Please stay forever.

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