REVIEW by DAVID CRUMM
Editor of ReadTheSpirit.com
The moment I discovered Marcel Proust‘s seven-volume masterpiece reduced to two lines of poetry, I was hooked!
Perhaps you know that Proust’s vast narrative canvas began to unroll one day when he dipped a little sponge cake known as a “madeleine” into a cup of tea. He hadn’t recalled much about his childhood, but that singular bite unlocked a cascade of recollections. The result is a series usually translated as Remembrance of Things Past.
My late father awakened my own love of reading at an early age because, first, he had a good-sized library lining one wall in his pastor’s study. The books came in all manner of shapes and sizes from enormous Bible concordances to tiny little leather-bound volumes of poetry. Then, second, he intentionally sought out the best versions of world classics for young readers and read aloud such adventures as “the Trojan wars,” a child’s version of The Iliad, and even a child’s version of Moby Dick.
By the time I was in grade school, I loved books! And more than the volumes he read to us, I was curious about his books in French, including a set of Proust that he began to read while in seminary when French was his “second language” for theological research.
“What are these books about?” I would ask him, flipping these puzzling pages.
“They’re about a man’s life,” he said.
“He wrote so many books!” I said, thinking of comic books that also came in long series. “He must have been a super hero.”
“Someday you can read his books,” my father would say. But there was no child’s version of Proust.
Until now. The creative team at Candlewick Press has brought us Scott Nash’s brilliantly conceived Shrunken Treasures: Literary Classics, Short, Sweet and Silly.
My only critique of this book (which I think should be on every parent’s bookshelf) is that I think Nash is far more than “silly.” I think he has nailed the themes of most of these works he summarizes in verse. For example, here is Proust in two lines:
I dipped a sweet cake in my tea
And a whole world came back to me.
Opposite those lines is a colorful illustration of Proust dunking his madeleine and looking heavenward at a collage of dreamy associations.
The book also includes similarly brilliant, colorful (although not as short) renditions of The Odyssey, Frankenstein, Moby-Dick, Jane Eyre, A Thousand and One Nights, Hamlet, Don Quixote and Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis.
If you’re a parent, a grandparent or someone who simply cares for a child in your family or classroom—a book like this just may be that memorable step that further awakens a love of reading.