Some years ago there was a little book in circulation called Shrinklits. I believe it’s out of print but wait here while I go check…. wow, it’s still in print.

Shrinklits: Seventy of the world’s towering classics cut down to size.
Workman Publishing, New York, 1980.
ISBN: 0-89480-079-5

The author — Maurice Sagoff — died in 1998 but the book is still going strong. I can’t hear the name Beowulf without remembering these immortal lines: “Monster Grendel’s tastes are plainish…. for breakfast? Just a couple Danish.” And I remember this take on The Hobbit, too (though this is from the middle of the shrink-ed version, I think): There’s a magic ring, of course, And a final show of force. Where the bad guys, overthrown, Yield the fabled Arkenstone; Bilbo scorns it, bless his soul, He just craves his hobbit-hole. Which sums up the whole thing pretty well, as I recall. A story where everybody really, really wants a ring and then they really, really want to get rid of it.

You’ll notice I have this unfortunate ability to recall whole passages from things I’ve read. It’s a talent of dubious merit, one that my daughter has inherited. At age three she could recite all of Goodnight Moon and Madeleine and many of the poems from Milne’s When We Were Six, ala:

The King asked
The Queen, and
The Queen asked
The Dairymaid:
“Could we have some butter for
The Royal slice of bread?”
The Queen asked the Dairymaid,
The Dairymaid
Said, “Certainly,
I’ll go and tell the cow
Before she goes to bed.”

bobbooksAt age four, ever on the prowl for ways to confound her parents, she memorized all the Bob Books so that it took a lot of ingenuity to actually trick her into reading a page. We did manage finally to convince her that the ability to read on her own would be a good thing. At age eleven she quizzed me closely about Anne Frank, and then, outraged at the idea that Anne’s father would censor her diaries, demanded the original. She immediately read the entire critical edition (which includes the original diary, a self-edited version of same, and also the one edited by Anne’s father) from end to end (ISBN 0153003804). That’s my girl.