The Children's Bookshelf: Brave Jane Austen

Jul 23, 2018

Brave Jane Austen: Reader, Writer, Author, Rebel written by Lisa Pliscou and illustrated by Jen Corace is a beautiful picture book biography of novelist Jane Austen. The pictures effectively imagine the 18th Century English village where Jane lived on a working farm with her Mama, Papa, sister and six brothers. She helped with the chores and learned how to sew and keep house as all girls were expected to do. So, as the text says, “There was no reason to think she would grow up to be anything out of the ordinary.”

Jane, however, had an early attraction to words. Her Papa, who was also the rector of the village church and ran a school for boys in the large house, was in the habit of reading stories aloud to the family most every evening in the parlor. Jane was drawn to the sounds and rhythms that words carried when spoken. 

While recuperating from a long and serious illness she decided that she would read the many books in her Papa’s study including Shakespeare and Swift.  After attending a finishing school where she learned French, practiced penmanship, enjoyed music and dancing and generally prepared to be a lady and a wife, Jane bravely decided that her life would instead revolve around writing.

When her Papa died she and her Mama and sister needed to move in with her brother. Although she continued to write in a new and exciting way, getting a publisher was very difficult for her as it was for most women. Not until her manuscript about two sisters entitled Sense and Sensibility was published in 1811 did she feel like a real author.

BRAVE JANE AUSTEN: Reader, Writer, Author, Rebel written engagingly by Lisa Pliscou with interesting back materials and illustrated with great charm by Jen Corace is a fine introduction to Jane Austen for ages 7-10 ( Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt and Company, 2018).

Questions/activities for BRAVE JANE AUSTEN: Reader, Writer, Author, Rebel

Study the illustration of the family in the parlor listening to Papa read a story aloud. From the illustration what could the story have been about? Have you ever experienced a parent, grandparent or teacher reading a story out loud? Can you remember one of those stories? Think back. Draw a picture of one of the characters (animal or human or machine) that you enjoyed and has stuck in your imagination.

Why did the author title this book Brave Jane Austen? Re-read the story and the biographical material in the back of this book to help identify her bravery. Have you ever done something brave? If so, how did it make you feel?

In this biography’s back-material Jane Austen’s House Museum in England is mentioned. If you go online and key in Jane Austen’s House Museum it will come up. Then click on 41 Objects to get a glimpse and history of a variety of items such as Jane Austen’s ring, her writing table, her father’s bookcase and a letter case carved by one of Jane’s brothers especially for her. Parents and teachers can help you with this online visit.