If any of you were in Matthew’s lecture this afternoon (I was there – I’m the pale girl with dark hair, purple glasses, and Kate Bush-esque cape; come and say hello!) you might have had a mini-breakdown when he recommended reading Virgil’s Aeneid on top of reading Inferno, Purgatory, Paradise, and whatever other set texts you might have. I admit that I, myself, had a little moment where I was thinking ‘OH GOD, NOT A CLASSIC, DON’T MAKE ME READ A CLASSIC’, but then I had a little word with myself and was reassured in the knowledge that I’m only really coming along to the lectures for kicks and I don’t have to do any essays or exams. However, I just want to pass on this reassurance to everyone else who was there and was freaking out, because it’s OK. I have a solution…
There’s a fantastic new series of picture books which takes the scarily clever works of the Classics, rewrites them in language that is appropriate for children, and give you nice pictures to illustrate the beauty of these texts. I got one of them for Christmas – Shapeshifters: Tales from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, by Adrian Mitchell – so can attest to their greatness. I’ve only had a quick flick through the Virgil one but from what I saw it was pretty much of a similar ilk, so I can pretty much guarantee ease of reading.
In Search of a Homeland has been rewritten by Dame Penelope Lively, who has a huge bibliography under her belt of both children’s and adult fiction (did anyone read Judy and the Martian as a nipper? That was Dame Penny’s work too, so you can tell you’re onto a winner with this book!)
Obviously if it’s the actual original text (or translation thereof) you’re searching for, then I’d probably recommend going for something a bit more along the lines of the Penguin Classic version. However if you just want to get the general gist of the tale, grasp the themes, get to know the characters, etc. then this is the perfect solution. It won’t feel like you’re doing school work either, since the book is so pretty. Winner.