Sunday, March 7, 2010

20th Century Children's Book Treasury

I'm not a huge fan of children's book treasuries in general. I'm often disappointed if a larger story is condensed. I'm never quite sure of the selection. But the biggest reason is almost always that I miss those big full page illustrations that come with any sort of picture books. Even if a treasury includes all the artwork it is normally too small to make out details. So when my mother bought me The 20th Century Children's Book Treasury, selected by Janet Schulman, I smiled politely and accepted it but figured I'd end up giving it away. This was many years ago. It still graces my library shelves. I still pull it down to read from occasionally. It's just that good of a collection.

All the greats are here. Maurice Sendak rubs shoulders with Dr. Seuss. Robert McCloskey shares a binding with Ezra Jack Keats. Leo Lionni and Mercer Meyer take their places. And Lane Smith and Jon Scieszka are neighbors to Jean de Brunhoff. Name a famous classical children's author and they are probably here. But there are some less known faces as well. I read through this treasury and knew only about 3/4th of the stories, and for me that's saying a lot. I had never read the story of The Tub People, written by Pam Conrad with wonderful drawings by Richard Egielski. I read it eagerly, hungry for fresh stories. And the treasury has plenty of stories. I was impressed with the selection and the sheer number. There are 44 stories in this one treasury, each by a different author and each a wonderful story. I will admit that there are two stories that are not complete. The author took only a section from both Amelia Bedelia and Petunia. But with only two stories out of 44 as abridged, I didn't feel like I was missing too much.

And I definitely wasn't missing any artwork. I knew from the moment I read Madeline (the first story) that the book had included as much of the artwork as possible. Each page spread before me with the full illustration and most of them were not all that tiny. The Spooky Old Tree by Stan and Jan Berenstain had most of its seven pages covered with illustration. Even H.A. Rey's Curious George had all the playful and beautiful illustrations from the original book. Of course the illustrations are smaller than they normally would be but the color and quality of the book make up for that. This really is a beautiful book. Each story offers a different style of illustration and that makes flipping each page a bit of an adventure.

Many of the stories included are ones I don't own yet. For a child with a small collection, this book is priceless. One book and tons of stories to read aloud over and over. I find myself pulling the book down regularly to reread classics from my childhood or rediscover some of the ones that I'm just getting to know. For reference the book was published in 1998 so parents looking for newer authors won't find any of the new up and coming authors that seem to be coming out of the woodwork. What they will find is some of their own favorite stories from childhood. Children without much exposure to the classics will find a treasure trove of material. And parents and children will find a wonderful collection that will allow them to sit and read night after night and still have plenty of fresh stories for the next night. A wonderful treasury. A nice complement to any good sized library (perfect for lending out) and a must have for any small library.

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