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Collection Children's Book Selections

Collection Highlights

The Library of Congress launched this digital collection as part of its celebration of the 100th anniversary of Children's Book Week in 2019.  Children’s Book Week began when Franklin K. Mathiews, librarian for the Boy Scouts of America; Frederic G. Melcher, editor of Publishers Weekly; and Anne Carroll Moore, Superintendent of Children's Works at New York Public Library, joined forces to promote high standards in books for children.

Some of the books included in this collection might seem old-fashioned to you, but we hope will delight you as they did previous generations.

Our selections include examples from Randolph Caldecott, Walter Crane, and Kate Greenaway, all of whom created books in England during the golden age of book illustration for children at the end of the 19th century.  

You will find a lovely New York edition of The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle by Beatrix Potter, 1905.  The Cats' Party, published by McLoughlin Brothers in 1871, is an engaging animal story of a surreptitious celebration gone wrong. 

Mother Goose makes an appearance in this collection, as Mother Goose in Hieroglyphics, 1855, with a selection of her nursery rhymes in rebus form, challenging the young reader to read pictures as well as words. 

W.W. Denslow, famous for his illustrations of L. Frank Baum's Wonderful Wizard of Oz, writes and illustrates his fresh twist on a familiar story in Denslow's Humpty Dumpty, 1903. 

The books we have selected for you span many generations, from The Little Pretty Pocket Book, printed by Isaiah Thomas in 1787, with its tiny illustrations of children's games and moral instructions, to Peter Newell's hilarious Rocket Book, 1912, about a rocket that pierces each floor of an apartment building, creating havoc on its way.

Our hope is that these books will be enjoyed equally by children, their parents, and teachers. We have selected some highlights that fall into three categories: Learning to Read, Reading to Learn, and Reading for Fun.

Learning to Read

[Wood hornbook]. [18th century].

[Wood hornbook]

Hornbooks were sturdy and portable teaching tools for children used in England (and then in the United States) from the 16th century through the late 18th century. Hornbooks were often used to support early instruction in reading, mathematics, and religious studies.

Kate Greenaway. A Apple Pie. 1900.

A apple pie

Kate Greenaway's ABC book teaches the alphabet as she tells the story of the eating of an apple pie. Her illustrations here of happy, well-fed, and scrubbed-clean children are good examples of her idealization of childhood.

Baseball A B C. c1885.

Baseball A B C

McLoughlin Brothers was a New York publishing firm in the second half of the 19th century, and a pioneer in color printing for children. Their books are often retellings of tales and amusing stories in inexpensive formats. This colorful volume, published c.1885, is guaranteed to interest even the most reluctant reader.

Illustrated Primer, or The first Book for Children, 1844.

The illustrated primer, or, The first book for children

The preface of this elaborate and amusing illustrated book for young children declares its aim to be, " ... to win him, by nature and easy steps, toward the mysteries of language." The book purports to have been written by a child no older than its young nineteenth century readers, and teaches the basics of reading with entertaining stories and illustrations.

Reading to Learn

Nathaniel Hawthorne. Wonder Book for Girls and Boys. 1893.

A wonder book, for girls and boys,

In Nathaniel Hawthorne's A Wonder Book for Girls and Boys, with sixty designs by Walter Crane, Crane uses his powers of design and color to enhance Hawthorne's retelling of six Greek myths for a young audience, including the stories of Medusa, King Midas and his golden touch, and Pandora's box. He frames the telling inside a story of a young man telling tales to children at Tanglewood in western Massachusetts.

Juvenile National Calendar, 1824. Marmaduke Multiply, 1862.

The juvenile national calendar, or, A familiar description of the U.S. government

Not all picture books for children are stories. Here are two fine examples of instruction for children using pictures and verse. Marmaduke Multiply was published in many editions and teaches arithmetic with fanciful illustrations and amusing rhymes. The Juvenile National Calendar is much more interesting than its title might imply. Engraved throughout and hand-colored, it describes to children, in an engaging style, the roles of the U.S. president, vice president, cabinet members, and congressmen.

Little Pretty Pocket Book, 1787.

A little pretty pocket-book : intended for the instruction and amusement of little Master Tommy, and pretty Miss Polly

The caption under the frontispiece of this significant piece of early American children's literature reads, "Instruction with delight." Isaiah Thomas reprinted this work and many others that originated with John Newbery in London. This title, possibly more than any other, marks the point at which children's literature turns from being overwhelmingly instructional to being entertaining as well.

Reading for Fun

H. C. (Hans Christian) Andersen. Stories from Hans Andersen [c1911].

Stories from Hans Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen's works are probably the most often retold stories in children's literature. In all, he wrote 156 tales and stories, seven of which are included here, illustrated with twenty-eight color plates by Edmund Dulac.

Robert Browning. Pied Piper of Hamelin. 1910.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin

Here Kate Greenaway illustrates Robert Browning's telling of the Pied Piper of Hamelin tale. The legend of the Pied Piper ("pied" describes the piper's multi-colored clothing) dates back to the Middle Ages. The piper is hired to rid Hamelin of its rats, and when he is not paid for his labors, he leads off the town's children with the very same pipe.

Walter Crane. Baby's Own Aesop. 1887.

The baby's own Aesop : being the fables condensed in rhyme, with portable morals pictorially pointed

This collection begins appropriately with a child knocking on a door [cover image] to open Aesop's fables. Crane condenses each of fifty-six fables into brief and entertaining rhymes, with the attendant morals, and illustrates them in his vibrant style. Notice his mark in each illustration, a large "C" surrounding a "W" and stick-figure crane.

Randolph Caldecott. Complete Collection of Pictures & Songs, 1887.

The complete collection of pictures & songs

Randolph Caldecott's energetic and often humorous illustrations fill this collection of sixteen picture books. The Caldecott Award, the American Library Association's annual award to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children, is named for this still-beloved 19th century British illustrator.

Wilhelm Grimm and Jacob Grimm. Grimm's Animal Stories, [c1909].

Grimm's animal stories

Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm collected German folktales as a scholarly endeavor and first published them in 1812 for an adult audience. This collection of thirteen tales translated into English for children is illustrated with the fanciful and engaging work of John Rae. Rae's depiction of Little Red Riding Hood's nemesis is particularly satisfying, as she watches the wolf tumble into the trough.

Peter Newell. The Rocket Book, 1912. The Slant Book, 1910.

The rocket book

Peter Newell's innovative and off-beat approach to bookmaking is apparent in these next two books. The Rocket Book has a rocket go off in the basement of an apartment building and travel through twenty floors, leaving chaos in its wake, and holes in the center of each page which are incorporated into the illustrations. The Slant Book is a rhombus rather than the rectangle a reader would expect, and tells the smile-inducing story of a baby carriage racing downhill, with the slope of the book itself.

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