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 .
Brothers Jack and Holman Wang teamed up in 2012 to create Cozy Classics, an infant primer board-book series that adapts classic novels into twelve simple, child-friendly words that appear alongside photographs of handmade figurines. The brothers create the characters, sets, and props themselves through the painstaking process of needle-felting, a handcraft that involves the shaping of woolen fibers with a barbed needle. Each figure takes between eighteen and twenty-five hours to create. The first two titles—Herman Melville's Moby-Dick and Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice—were released this past November by Vancouver-based Simply Read Books; the next release, a cozy take on Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, is forthcoming in April.
The cozy adaptation of Moby-Dick introduces young readers to Melville's classic sea-faring adventure.
Ishmael, whose fibrous figurine illustrates the word "sailor," sets off on his famous voyage.
The meticulously needle-felted Pequod, Captain Ahab's famous whaleship, runs alongside the word "boat."
To accompany the word "find," our hero is perched in a needle-felted crow's nest, one of many handmade set pieces in the Cozy Classics series.
The elusive white whale himself, carefully needle-felted right down to the teeth.
The cozy cover of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, published this past November by Simply Read Books.
In the opening scene, the felted figures of Charles Bingley and Mr. Darcy introduce the word "friends" to the youngest of Jane Austen fans.
Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet teach readers what it means to be "mean."
Elizabeth gets muddy. This scene, among others in the series, was shot by the creators using natural outdoor backgrounds.
Demonstrating the word "read," Elizabeth Bennet holds Mr. Darcy's famous letter—which, like the characters themselves, is also carefully needle-felted.
The cozy cover of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, forthcoming from Simply Read Books in April.
In the opening scene, a very poor Jean Valjean, recently released from prison, wanders the streets of Digne in search of a place to stay.
This needle-felted illustratration representing the word "fire" is set against a delicately hand-crafted background.
The young Cosette—at the window of a handmade miniature set, with carefully constructed broom in hand—dreams of a day when she will no longer be sad.
The scene depicted here, whose needle-felted figures stand before a living garden, illustrates one of the cozier moments of Hugo's tale.