Monday, December 9, 2013

Little Miss Austen Pride & Prejudice Play Set

One of the great perks of parenthood is buying your kids the toys you want to play with.

I intentionally gave the Little Miss Austen Pride & Prejudice Book and Play Set to Eliza for Hanukkah instead of Christmas so that I could review it here (it was on my JA holiday wish list - see it here), and I am ever so pleased I did because now I can try and persuade as many as possible to buy this little treasure for the wee Janeites of the world. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a child in possession of an able brain must be in need of Jane Austen, right?

It has been a great joy to watch Eliza become familiar with Jane Austen, kind of inevitable as she's been listen to me prattle on about her books, characters, and setting since the moment she was born. I've loved exploring the children's versions of Austen's stories with her (see the post "Reading Jane Austen to Children" here), and the Little Miss Austen Pride & Prejudice: A Counting Primer was the first that fell into my hands (read my review at AustenBlog). I was quite pleased with the book, but I love (and so does E!) the play set! So much fun. It comes in a pretty box that can be used as a ballroom for the figures when open. The set includes a copy of the board book and six "sheets" of play figures and sets. The pieces pop out of the sheets, sort of like a perforated paper doll but made of a very sturdy board. My two year old could pop them all out without damaging them in the slightest (NOTE: it does come with an under 3/small parts/choking warning. Do supervise closely any children who might decide to eat the play set). She had so much fun being able to remove all the parts and set them up herself. They are solid enough to pop back into their original places, like a puzzle, for easy storage. I'm not sure which is more fun - taking the set apart or putting it back together again!

The designs are just like those in the book: folksy but still modern and thoroughly charming. Included are Elizabeth, Jane, Darcy Bingley, a carriage, Pemberley, Longbourn, a couple of musicians, a soldier, a few village buildings (these represent Meryton in the board book, but they could just as well be Lambton), a few animals, and some trees and hearts for atmosphere (the latter make a very nice wedding alter). Almost all the pieces are double sided, so the characters all have proper backs, as do the houses, which is classy. There really is only one thing I find at all problematic or lacking in this toy, and    that is Elizabeth. Kind of a big place to find fault, I know. She's wearing this orange, I-heart-Darcy dress that is truly horrendous, and her figure is really kind of stocky and box shaped, like she's wearing 80's shoulder pads. I much prefer Jane's portrayal, and Darcy is, hands down, the best dressed board in the set.

Lizzy's fangirl attire aside, this is an amazing gift! I couldn't get my hands on it for three days, for Eliza was too busy playing to share, and then I had almost as much fun with it as she did. This is also a great value: the book alone lists at $10, but with the play set it's still under $15 on Amazon. Plus it's small and compact, which for parents, like me, who can't find a place to put away all the toys is invaluable. This will travel well. Eliza can take it to all those holiday parties with no other kids and keep busy for hours. Can I be more unequivocal? THE PERSON, BE THEY CHILD OR ADULT, WHO DOES NOT ADORE THIS GIFT MUST BE INTOLERABLY STUPID. Buy it. It maybe my favorite  piece Austen paraphernalia I have ever found.

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