In today’s On the Square, Ashley Thorne considers the wisdom in giving children child-sized versions of great books; it not only introduces them to great literature early in life, but gives them the ability to read and appreciate it once they are no longer children:
When I was assigned [Pilgrim's Progress] in college, I was glad to revisit a well-loved tale from my childhood and be able to say that yes, I had read the book, not just seen the movie. The movie, however, primed me for the ascent. There were other literary appetizers. An abridged version of the Iliad I read in the fifth grade inspired my one-time attempt at rapping: “War broke out between Greece and Troy—for Troy there was grief but for Greece there was joy.” (Move over George Chapman, Richmond Lattimore, and Robert Fagles.) The mid-nineties PBS television show Wishbone, starring a Jack Russell terrier, introduced me, avant la lettre, to Pride and Prejudice, Frankenstein, and The Count of Monte Cristo. Sorry to say there are some classics, including Cyrano de Bergerac and Poe’s “The Purloined Letter,” that I know to this day only as Wishbone episodes.
Incidentally, the Getty Museum has published some children’s editions of Greek tragedies, such as The Bacchae, Hippolytus, Antigone, and Oedipus the King. They are beautifully made and illustrated. Also, they are terribly inappropriate for children. Do not give these books to a child. I cannot stress that last point enough.