Counting on the Classics

Victor Wishna

Staff Writer

Victor Wishna's work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Baltimore Sun, the New York Post, NPR,, and others. His writing and editing services firm, The Vital Word helps find the right words for nonprofit, corporate, and individual clients. Follow him on Twitter: @vwishna.

This weekend, our dear friends gave our 14-month-old daughter her first volume of classic literature, Pride and Prejudice. Well, it’s not the version she might encounter by high school, but a new baby-friendly counting primer.

Here’s an excerpt:

1 English village

2 rich gentlemen

3 houses

4 marriage proposals

5 sisters

Actually, that’s half the entire book (at least I didn’t give away the ending!). This “Little Miss Austen” edition, by Jennifer Adams (with art by Alison Oliver), is a product of BabyLit, which has also put out classics such as Jane Eyre, Alice in Wonderland, and Romeo and Juliet in 10-page, picture-and-number board-book form.

I happen to think this is a wonderful idea. I hope they make more. So here are some of my suggestions—including a few they are probably yet to (and never will) consider—with excerpts.


A Tale of Two Cities

1 tale

2 cities

5 years

100s of severed heads


War and Peace

1 Napoleonic invasion

5 aristocratic families

131 main characters

1,440 pages


The Catcher in the Rye

1 angst-riddled breakdown

2 nuns

3 days in New York City

44 uses of the word “phony”


Animal Farm

1 pig-instigated revolution

2 legs bad

4 legs good

7 commandments


Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

1 motorcycle race

2 or more versions of reality

6 types of recreational drug

14 visions of anthropomorphic desert animals



1 Pulitzer Prize

2 gender identities


The Hunger Games

1 annoying cat

2 adolescent love interests

13 districts

24 tributes

23,500,000 copies sold


Some other obvious possibilities include Two Gentlemen of Verona, Slaughterhouse Five, Catch-22, and 100 Years of Solitude. What are your suggestions?