July 20, 2008

Favorite Children's Books

Two very interesting "sets of information" lately on my favorite children's books. (I say "sets of information" because one is a podcast of a lecture, and the other is an article / interview / podcast ... so what is the proper name for these bits of information? but I digress)

First, I read the article in last week's New Yorker about children's libraries, Anne Carroll Moore, arguably the mother of all children's librarians, and E.B. White's Stuart Little. Jill Lepore describes the "Department of Work with Children" at the New York Public Library and provides background on Anne Carroll Moore, the NYPL's first children's librarian, including details of how Moore championed good books for children. Lepore describes how Moore pestered White to write a book for children, but then recoiled from Stuart Little. Stuart himself prevailed, of course, and the rest of the article follows Stuart's progress. The New Yorker also includes a blog post by Lepore who "writes about how she got to the bottom of the Stuart Little battle" and a podcast discussion between Lepore and Roger Angell about the article.

Then I downloaded a podcast of Anita Silvey talking about some of the 100 best children's books to students and school librarians at Simmons Graduate School of Library & Information Science. I had the great fortune of taking Modern Book Publishing with Anita while I was at Simmons, and she is terrific storyteller. In this lecture Anita gives, in her words, "30 short book talks," which turns out to be 1-2 minutes about some delightful books for children and young adults. I was enthralled for virtually all of the talk, and I learned many interesting tidbits about some of my favorite children's books like ...
  • One series of books was written by a mother and daughter, although only the mother was credited as the author.
  • One picture book was rejected over 20 times, and one of my all-time favorite YA books was also rejected over 20 times.
  • One picture book was written during WWII and could be used today to comfort children who are concerned about family members fighting in Iraq.
  • One series of books was written by two German Jews and was smuggled out of France shortly before the Nazis invaded Paris.
Listen to the podcast to find out about these books and more! (or read Anita's books 100 Best Books for Children and 500 Great Books for Teens) Anita is full of fascinating tidbits, like "it doesn't matter how you get a great book" and arguments why publishers and librarians view controversy differently and "great artists do whatever needs to be done" to get a great book.

If you like (or liked) children's books, or if you have children who read, I highly recommend both the New Yorker article and the Anita Silvey lecture.

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