Three weeks ago, I promised reviews based on my granddaughters’ favorite books. The oldest finally decided she loved Jane Eyre the best. She’s six, so she read the children’s version from the Treasury of Illustrated Classics. Voracious reader that she is, I give her four more years before she tackles Charlotte Brontë’s original text.
If you have never read Jane Eyre, Jane tells her story beginning as a young girl in a Cinderella-type of existence with her stepmother, stepbrother and stepsisters, none of whom have sympathy toward her. They send her to an orphanage claiming she is a terrible child, so the people who run the place don’t trust her either. Jane’s one friend, an older girl and a devout and kind Christian, dies of tuberculosis.
Once Jane grows up, she finds a position at Thornfield Hall as governess to Rochester’s ward, Adele. Thornfield Hall is an eccentric household but comfortable. Strange laughter from the attic is explained as “Grace Poole, one of the servants, who just goes up there to sew.” When Rochester and Jane fall in love and plan a wedding, a stranger enters the church in the middle of the ceremony declaring Rochester is already married. Jane runs away. If you want to find out the ending, read the book. I don’t want to spoil it!
- Children love to read about other children in precarious situations, and Jane Eyre delivers, as orphaned Jane endures many hardships through childhood and must make her way in the world as a young adult.
- Children, girls especially, love a good love story, and once again, Jane Eyre delivers. Her love story seems star-crossed, but just when all is lost, Brontë writes a happy ending employing unusual circumstances.
- Parents who want their children to appreciate literature will find this story and many other Treasury titles a wonderful way to introduce the classics.
- Jane’s character perseveres in every circumstance. She is not perfect, neither in beauty nor in temperament, but she never gives up on worthwhile goals, a quality I tried to instill in my own children.
- As an adult, I admit disappointment in the truncation of plot. But this is a review for kids’ satisfaction in reading, so I guess it’s not so much of a negative.
- With all the craze for fantasy and fairy princesses, Jane Eyre will not satisfy. But then, I have always promoted variety in the literary diet, so again, not much of a negative.
- If you had been another child at the orphanage, how would you have treated Jane?
- What would you have thought of Mr. Brocklehurst?
- Was it right or wrong for Rochester to lie about his crazy wife who lived on the top floor?
Modern Publishing has three dozen classic titles under the Treasury of Illustrated Classics logo, all of which boil down the plots to a third/fourth grade vocabulary. Of course, the nuances in the adult versions are missing, but the adaptations remain true to story. In this case, credit goes to Sara Thomson.