Monthly Archives: February 2014

100 Great Children’s Books at the New York Public Library

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I’m always on the lookout for recommended children’s books and was happy to recently come across the New York Public Library’s top 100 at www.nypl.org/childrens100. They also have lists of “best” picture books, baby and toddler books, and easy books for children ages 4-6.

The “100 Great Children’s Books |100 Years” list was compiled on the occasion of the NYP Library’s exhibition “The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter,” on display now through September 7, 2014 at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, adjacent to the main library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.

This exhibit highlights children’s books that have become classics and what those books reveal about the time periods and societies in which they were written. The library says about the exhibit, “Through a dynamic array of objects and activities, the exhibition celebrates the extraordinary richness, artistry, and diversity of children’s literature across cultures and time.” The library hopes to show us that good children’s books stay with us and motivate us to learn more and read more.

Here are some of the books that made the library’s top 100 list, with their descriptions. Are any of them your family’s favorites?

  • “Bark, George” by Jules Feiffer (1999) He meows, quacks, oinks, and moos, but why can’t George the dog bark?
  • “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Eric Carle (1967) A gentle rhyming delight in a storytime classic.
  • “Caps for Sale” by Esphyr Slobodkina (1938) Naughty monkeys prove a challenge for an innocent cap seller.
  • “Corduroy” by Don Freeman (1976) A little stuffed bear searches in vain for the button that will help to get him adopted.
  • “Freight Train” by Donald Crews (1978) A train ride to remember with bold colors galore!
  • “Grandfather’s Journey” by Allen Say (1993) A young man struggles with both loving his new land and feeling homesick for the Japan he left behind.
  • “Millions of Cats” by Wanda Gág (1928) When an old man sets off to find a cute little kitty, he ends up with millions of cats, billions of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats.
  • “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats (1962) A little boy explores the first city snow of the year from snow angels to a snowball tucked away safely into his pocket.
  • “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs” by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith (1989) All he was doing was trying to borrow some sugar.  Alexander T. Wolf tells his side of the story.
  • “Where is the Green Sheep?” by Mem Fox, illustrated by Judy Horacek (2004) Woolly kooks go amuck in this seemingly simple story.
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The Book I Threw Away

I threw away my first book the other day. I don’t believe in censorship, but this was a book I never want a young child to see, so it ended up in my trash. My cast-off was a board book, a book with each page made of thick cardboard constructed especially for babies who might be exploring a book by chewing and handling. The title of this baby book was “Star Wars: Villains.”

The cover featured a picture of Darth Vader’s black helmeted head with his light saber, ever ready.  Inside were pictures of all the major bad guys in the Star Wars movies. Online I found that there is a companion book called “Star Wars: Heroes.”

It’s not that I think that “Villains” would be especially harmful to read to a baby, but why would anyone think a baby would even be interested? Scary faces from a PG movie? The format is the wrong choice for the content.  The publishers are marketing to parents, not to little babies.

This is the sad fate of many great picture books, too. A good selling book, or in the case of Star Wars, a good selling story turned phenomenon, is marketed to parents of babies to broaden potential sales. Some picture books translate well into board books, but some do not. If the content is too complex, the pictures too detailed, or the story too long, the picture book may not make the best board book.

Board books are a wonderful invention and the perfect way to introduce books to the smallest of children. It’s easy to find lots of great board books to buy or to borrow, just keep baby in mind when you are choosing.

Babies like to look at pictures that are bold and colorful (black and white for newborns) or people’s faces. Babies like to hear rhythm and rhyme, so a good story read aloud is like music to their ears. Babies are beginning to learn the names of things so they also like books with just a few words that relate to their world.

Here are some recommended board books that are just right for newborn babies through 18 months. Have fun reading to your little one!

“Baby Dance” by Ann Taylor
“Baby Faces,” a DK bookTen, Nine, Eight“Counting Kisses” by Karen Katz
“From Head to Toe” by Eric Carle
“I Like It When” by Mary Murphy
“Itsy Bitsy Spider” by Annie Kubler
“Peek-a-Boo” by Roberta Grobel Intrater
“Say Goodnight” by Helen Oxenbury
“Ten, Nine, Eight” by Molly Bang

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Filed under board books, books for babies, books for toddlers, family reading