Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The ABC of it: Why Children's Books Matter

Last week, I was fortunate enough to go on holidays with my husband and children to New York City. Amongst various other activities that we crammed into our 2 days and 3 nights, was my desire to visit the New York City Public Library. Having lined up to see Santa at Macy's, gone up the Empire State Building, and with two tired children in tow, I was happy enough for us to walk past, and I get my photo and stand and look at a wonderful building that I see as a monument to the importance that libraries should hold in our society. On our last trip to New York, I had wandered the inside of the building, so I was content this time, just to stand in it's presence and soak it in for a minute or two.

Hubby was the one who spotted the banner advertising a current exhibition "The ABC of it: Why Children's Books Matter".

"Oh" I sighed.

And wonderful man that he is, who knows my love of libraries, of children and children's books, said he would take our girls back to the hotel to rest, while I stayed and looked at the exhibition.

Love that man.

And so in I went. And it was wonderful. The first book on display - a rare copy of the New England Primer (and although I was not supposed to take photos here is one anyway!)

and a copy of 'The Pictured World"

There was a copy of beautifully illustrated copy of Aesop's Fables from 1666. It is the only known copy in existence, as all the others burned in the great fires of London that year.

The exhibition examined very early texts such as William Blake's beautifully illustrated 'Songs of Innocence', Nathaniel Hawthorne's 'Wonder Book for Boys and Girls" (as well as a copy of The Scarlet Letter), accompanied by quotes from Rousseau and John Locke  through to early picture books from the 19th and 20th centuries including the Madeleine, The Snowy Day, Goodnight Moon and Harold and his purple crayon by Crockett Johnson. There was a wonderful display of the Dick and Jane earl readers and Dr Seuss.

and our family favourite 'Ferdinand'.

A tribute was payed to Lewis Carroll and 'Alice in Wonderland' with a letter from Charles Dodgson (Carroll) to Alice Lidell on display. Also prominent was a display on Where the Wild Things Are and the contributions authors such as Sendak and Carle made to both the written word and illustrations.

There was a focus area on multicultural literacy and picture books written throughout the world. Beautifully illustrated Japanese pocket books (I can't remember the author!), a copy of a children's book from early last century on Lenin from Russia, written in Islamic and other texts from across Asia, India, and Europe.

Hans Christian Anderson and the Brother's Grimm were displayed as were The Poky Little Puppy from The Golden Books. There was a wonderful area devoted to controversial / banned  picture books such as 'Pippi Longstockings', Judy Blume's 'Are you there God, it's me Margaret', Anne Frank 'A Diary of a Young Girl', 'The Rabbit's Wedding' by Garth Williams and Twain's 'Huckleberry Finn'.

Not to mention seeing the actual Winne the PooH stuffed toys that the story was written around. Awesome!

I was fortunate enough to join a docent led tour and this was wonderful, to have a librarian share additional and interesting information about the books, although I did enjoy the opportunity to also browse at my leisure.  I wish I had had a pen and paper to record more of what I had seen, or been more willing to 'break the rules' and photograph the exhibit.

Still, it was an amazing opportunity to see and explore this wonderful exhibition and walk through that glorious building.

My next goal is now to visit Toronto before the 14th of March to see the 'And then what happened? Series and Popular Fiction in Children's Literature''at the Toronto Public Library.

No comments:

Post a Comment