Since they were in the third grade, Chinese Canadian twin brothers Jack and Holman Wang have been writing and illustrating books together. Now that they both have young children of their own, the brothers have collaborated to create Cozy Classics, a board-book series that introduces classic literary works to the youngest readers. An associate professor and the chair of the writing department at Ithaca College in New York, Jack Wang first began thinking about a way to introduce the classics to infants and toddlers when his own daughter was born in 2010. He teamed up with Holman, a former middle school teacher and the author of the coffee-table book Bathroom Stuff (Source Books, 2001), to develop a new twist on the infant primer: a series that distills canonical novels into twelve simple, child-friendly words, which appear alongside photographs of handmade figurines. The first two titles in the series, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, were released by Vancouver-based Simply Read Books this past November. The brothers create the characters—from Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy to Ishmael, Ahab, and the white whale himself—through the painstaking process of needle felting, a handcraft that involves the tangling and shaping of woolen fibers using a barbed needle. Each figure is made completely by hand, and takes between eighteen and twenty-five hours to complete. The brothers then photograph the figures against carefully constructed miniature sets and natural backdrops to re-create iconic scenes from each novel. A cozy version of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables will be published in April, and Tolstoy’s War and Peace will follow in June. For more information, visit www.mycozyclassics.com, and to view more images from the Cozy Classics series visit our slideshow.
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