Doodling With the Classics

doodle lit
Doodle Lit, the recent publication by the creators of BabyLit, may be intended for kids. However, adults may also find themselves catching the doodle bug, too. Image: Lisa Kay Tate.

The colorful simplicity of the Jennifer Adams and Alison Oliver BabyLit series has been introducing beginner readers to the world of classic literature since 2011, by teaching simple concepts like counting, weather, colors, and opposites with classics like Pride and Prejudice, Dracula, Alice in Wonderland, and Anna Karenina.

Now, readers of all ages can increase their literary appreciation through the ageless practice of doodling with their interactive book, Doodle Lit.

The book includes several doodle prompts based on the works of authors like Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, Bram Stoker, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, Charlotte Brontë, and others.

Doodlers can doodle some autobiographic sketches inspired by illustrations from Jane Eyre’s life, compose a Shakespearean-style love letter, try their hand at tattoo design inspired by Moby Dick character Queequeg, and even “Hot Rod” up an 18th century buggy.

Both Adams and Oliver explain the importance of the act of doodling in the book’s introduction, as well as what this simple artistic practice means for them.

“Doodling is such a simple form of being creative,” Adams says in her introduction comments. “When you doodle, you usually allow yourself to do it freely—you’re not worrying about trying to make a final piece of art or worrying what someone else will think.”

This book maintains the simple look of the BabyLit series, only in the black-and-white line style indicative of the many popular “doodling” books available from different authors and publishers.

Another nice feature are the periodic “historical footnotes” included throughout the book. Young doodlers can learn such diverse facts as what a scrimshaw was to sailors and what the national bird of India is (peacock), as well as which Brontë sister wrote what.

Although the BabyLit series is geared towards toddlers and beginning readers, don’t make the assumption that Doodle Lit is also just for children. The book may be created with the intention of helping get kids more excited about classic books, but this is something even adults will love doing.

Young children will relish the sheer pleasure of coloring, drawing, writing, cutting out masks, and creating collages using classic literature as source material. Tweens and teens can even get into the prospect of adding their own contemporary creative aspects to timeless classics. This will even be a gateway for young adult readers to be inspired to learn more about the stories and books behind these projects.

The BabyLit series by Jennifer Adams and Alison Oliver merges early learning skills with an appreciation of classic books. Image: Gibbs Smith, Inc.

For adults, it is a chance to rediscover the classics they may have already read, as well as have an incentive to read those classics they may never have gotten a chance to yet. This would be a fun coffee table book to add to now and again, or you could keep a set of drawing implements nearby for guests to contribute their own “works of art” to a favorite story.

Adams has written two classic lit-inspired books for adults, including Y is for Yorick: A Slightly Irreverent Shakespearean ABC Book for Grown-Ups Hardcover, which would be fun companion gift with Doodle Lit.

There are plenty of books and authors who seemed to be noticeably missing from this series. J.R.R. Tolkien and Jules Verne come to mind, but there is only so much space in one book. This volume is primed for follow-ups; maybe with some focused on specific genres, like poetry or science fiction. Adams and Oliver have certainly opened up the possibilities.

Whether Adams and Oliver ever decide to create a second Doodle Lit volume is up to them, but as for the reader, the question remains “To “Doodle” or “Not To Doodle.”

The answer is clear—and written plainly on the cover—by all means, “Doodle.”

“When you’re young, you’re smart enough to know that art is fun,” Adams says in the introduction. “When we get older, sometimes we forget that. Art is fun. Just doodle.”

GeekMom received a copy of this book for review purposes.

Lisa Kay Tate is a veteran feature writer with 20 years experience in newspaper, magazine and freelance writing. In addition to serving as Associate Editor for her local arts and entertainment guide, El Paso Scene, she has been a regular contributor to the site and maintains her own blogsite at She and her husband, writer/photographer Rick, live on the edge of "New Texico" where they keep busy raising their two geeklings and sharing space with their dog, Sirius Black, and cat, Loki.