Jane Austen has been part of my life ever since I read Pride and Prejudice as a book-loving child. The book-loving child grew up to be an English professor, and I’ve taught Jane Austen, written about Jane Austen, and lectured abroad about Jane Austen. Currently, I am giving a Jane Austen course at our local senior citizens’ center.
But what to do about my granddaughter Dana? How could I introduce her to the author I loved and give her at least a sense of what Jane Austen was like? I thought Dana would like a story about Jane Austen, if only I could find the right format for it.
My first decision was borrowed straight from Stephanie Barron, whose Jane Austen mysteries I so much enjoyed. Mine would be a mystery story, too—only at a child’s level rather than an adult’s. That was how the mystery of “Aunt Jane and the Missing CherryPie” originated.
My next decision was deciding who should be the narrator. Jane Austen lived surrounded by visiting nieces and nephews—some, very sadly, because they needed childcare after their mothers had died in childbirth. (Four of Jane Austen’s sisters-in-law died in this way—two after the birth of their eleventh child.) We know from Jane Austen’s nephew that she told “the most delightful stories, chiefly of fairyland, and her fairies had all characters of their own.” We also know that she wrote what she called Miscellaneous Morsels for her brother James’s daughter. So, Jane-Anna-Elizabeth Austen (always called Anna) became the narrator of my story.