The Beautifull Cassandra – Jane Austen

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I am 300 pages away from finishing Out, and 200 pages away from finishing The Master and Margarita, so with no book reviews looking likely to occur in the next few days I was looking for something quick and easy to review. I was totally unaware that any picture books by Jane Austen existed, so when I saw this little book amongst my book shop stock I was very intrigued.

It is a short story, which takes only a couple of minutes to read. It was written by Jane Austen when she was about 12-years-old, and tells the story of a young girl who falls in love with a hat and then proudly goes out in to the world.




In this edition the words are accompanied by beautiful pictures, reminiscent of Beatrix Potter, and I have to admit that these are the best part of the book. The words did nothing for me at all. If this had been written by anyone other than Jane Austen it wouldn’t have got anywhere near a printing press. The blurb states that:

It will have particular appeal to children.

I disagree. I don’t believe that children would enjoy this at all. My toddler might enjoy pointing to the frogs, but the words would be completely meaningless to them. I am impressed by the vocabulary of the twelve-year-old Jane Austen, but she still has a long way to go in the plot development area.  

I can only imagine that this book would appeal to Jane Austen fanatics, who are keen to study the development of her language. Anyone else shouldn’t bother to read it, unless you happen to find it in the library.

stars2 (for the illustrations)

If one of your favourite authors releases a book for children do you ever buy it?

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  1. I’m actually amazed how many authors do publish books for kids. I was thinking of doing a blog post devoted to it, but I’ve only read the ones by Amy Tan.

  2. Christina says:

    I didn’t know she had written a children’s books. To answer your question, no, I probably wouldn’t buy them. I like authors for what they can write for my level, and I’m not sure how well that would transfer to kid lit. Plus, children are many, many, many years down the road for me.

  3. Susi says:

    Wow, I had no idea that this book by her existed – I should be ashamed of myself. I am an English Lit major, so I probably should have known this.
    I guess I’ll see about getting it, just for the sake of completing my collection.
    And Jane Austen was 12 when she wrote this? I am amazed.
    Thanks for letting us know – without this blog I wouldn’t have know about this book!

  4. Claire says:

    I had no idea this existed; apparently it is a “parody of the melodramatic and sentimental novels of the time”. The mis-spelling of “beautiful” is characteristic of her juvenilia; she also wrote “love & freindship” (her spelling), which is the only one I’ve read.

    Charlotte Bronte has a lot of juvenilia to her name too.

  5. Jackie says:

    JT Oldfield – I didn’t realise Amy Tan had written children’s books. Are they any good?

    Christina – I wouldn’t buy children’s books for myself, but if they are appropriate for my boys I may well get them. I agree – I like things written at my level.

    Susi – I didn’t know it existed either. I think the reason you didn’t know about it is because it is so short and so bad. I think I’ll stick to her adult books!

    Claire – Thanks for the quote. I didn’t realise Charlotte Bronte had juvenilia. I guess I’m mildly curious, but I wouldn’t buy any of it. What did you think of Love & Freindship?

  6. Claire says:

    Jackie, it’s been a few years since I read Love & Freindship (for my English Lit finals) but it is a good insight into Austen’s development. It is in epistolary form, letters between the heroine and her friend’s daughter, and is short and quick to read. Again it is a parody and characteristically witty although lacking in the caustic nature of her famous novels.

    I think what you said about it not being published if it was by anybody else is quite a good point. Writers such as Austen and Bronte (and Sylvia Plath’s children’s lit springs to mind) most likely didn’t want their earliest writings to ever be published and probably wrote them only for the amusement of their families. In the case of Charlotte Bronte, the juvenilia is set in the world of Verdopolis, which was a land created by her and her siblings (I haven’t read these).

    Funnily enough both the Austen and Bronte juvenilia are published by Hesperus Classics; the seem to have/had a monopoly on the work (in the case of the Austen works the covers are beautiful).

  7. Jackie,

    Are you familiar at all with the PBS kids show “Sagwa the Chinese Cat”? It is based on her book…or books, I think there’s two or three of them. She is also a producer for the show.

    I don’t have kids, but I do have 11 nieces and nephews.


  8. Jackie says:

    Claire – Thanks for the information. I think I’ll give all the juvenilla a miss. I’d hate to think that anything I’d written when I was 12 would be published. It would be terrible!

    JT – No, I’ve never heard of Sagwa. I’m in the UK so don’t get PBS. I’ll have to see if the library has any copies, as I am interested.

  9. duh! I totally forgot. How solipsistically American I am!

    Sometimes you gotta love Amazon for the “look inside” feature. This should give you an idea.

  10. Sandy says:

    I agree with you, I think toddlers would be lost, and I think my daughter would think it was infantile. For adults, however, knowing what Austen would become, it would be very nostalgic and appreciated. I had no idea she was publishing works as a 12 year old!

  11. Violet says:

    I had no idea a book like that exists :)

    I wouldn’t buy a children’s book by my favorite author unless I have children. Now YA, I would.

  12. Jackie says:

    JT – Thanks for the link. It looks quite sweet, but I don’t think I’ll buy a copy. I’ll still try to finda copy in the library and read it all the way throughthough.

    Sandy – I’m sure your daughter has better taste than this! She’ll be moving on to those Virginia Andrews books soon!

    Violet – I agree. I’d buy YA books too. I have children, but I don’t think I’d buy the books for them unless they happened to be very good or the sort of thing they’d like anyway.

  13. Sherrie says:

    I probably wouldn’t buy the book, but if my library had I might borrow it!. I like the cover, and yes I am one of those people that gets books by the cover. But some of them are really good! Thanks for stopping by my place. Have a great day!!


  14. webster12 says:

    I’m not aware of this either.
    It depends if the children’s book is good, based on the reviews and recommendation of other people. If it’s good, I will.

  15. Michele says:

    I, too, had no idea this book existed! It would be okay for my Austen collection, but I certainly wouldn’t think my kids would like it. I’m glad you reviewed this one!

  16. Jackie says:

    Sherrie – I wouldn’t buy it either. I’m putting the copy I found up for sale for £17. For 5 minutes distraction it isn’t worth it!

    webster12 – I don’t know many people who recommend children’s books. I guess I should find a few!

    Michele – Do you collect Austen books? I didn’t realise that!


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