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Hemingway, Kerouac and Salinger: Hipsters now read literary classics to their children

You may have grown up reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Magic Key, but today’s young parents are raising their children on literary classics.

Yes, hipsters have reached the children’s storybook market, reading their kids Hemingway, Kerouac and Capote before bedtime.

These versions of the classics, however, have been made child-friendly – after all, tales of domestic violence and murder are enough to give adults nightmares, let alone five-year-olds.

It’s the latest development in the hipsterisation of, well, everything – seemingly discontent with riding around on velocipedes, tapping away at typewriters at independent coffee shops and drinking cocktails out of baubles, hipsters are now passing on their cultured ways to their offspring, and they’re starting young.

The KinderGuides series of classic books reinvented for children have been created by a couple, graphic designer Melissa Medina and writer Fredrik Colting, who hope to awaken an interest in literature in children from a young age: “The goal of all of this is to get them really psyched about these books now, so that they’ll want to read the originals later,” Medina said.

Whilst the premise is no doubt noble, you have to ask whether a child needs to know their Kerouac from their Capote when they can’t even read themselves yet.

Of course, Medina and Colting have tapped into a niche market with plenty of young parents willing to invest in educating their children from a young age.

Four classics have so far been made child-friendly: Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, and Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Unlike the original versions, the stories have been drastically cut down and feature big, bright illustrations.

The next four classics to be published in the KinderGuides series will feature books by two female authors too, including Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Some people argue it’s ludicrous to read literary classics to children when there are so many great kids’ books. But what do children think?

Kurt Hemmer, an English professor at Harper College in Illinois revealed his five-year-old daughter Alice “didn’t love” the KinderGuides version of On The Road, despite the omission of the drugs, prostitutes and wild parties.

“To really grasp it, you need to be a bit more mature,” believes Hemmer. But then again, the book is aimed at six- to 12-year-olds, so perhaps we just need to give Alice a year.

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