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The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter

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Original artwork and materials explore children’s literature and its impact in society and culture over time A favorite childhood book can leave a lasting impression, but as adults we tend to shelve such memories. For fourteen months beginning in June 2013, more than half a million visitors to the New York Public Library viewed an exhibition about the role that children’s Original artwork and materials explore children’s literature and its impact in society and culture over time A favorite childhood book can leave a lasting impression, but as adults we tend to shelve such memories. For fourteen months beginning in June 2013, more than half a million visitors to the New York Public Library viewed an exhibition about the role that children’s books play in world culture and in our lives. After the exhibition closed, attendees clamored for a catalog of The ABC of It as well as for children’s literature historian Leonard S. Marcus’s insightful, wry commentary about the objects on display. Now with this book, a collaboration between the University of Minnesota’s Kerlan Collection of Children’s Literature and Leonard Marcus, the nostalgia and vision of that exhibit can be experienced anywhere.  The story of the origins of children’s literature is a tale with memorable characters and deeds, from Hans Christian Andersen and Lewis Carroll to E. B. White and Madeleine L’Engle, who safeguarded a place for wonder in a world increasingly dominated by mechanistic styles of thought, to artists like Beatrix Potter and Maurice Sendak who devoted their extraordinary talents to revealing to children not only the exhilarating beauty of life but also its bracing intensity. Philosophers like John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau and educators such as Johann Comenius and John Dewey were path-finding interpreters of the phenomenon of childhood, inspiring major strands of bookmaking and storytelling for the young. Librarians devised rigorous standards for evaluating children’s books and effective ways of putting good books into children’s hands, and educators proposed radically different ideas about what those books should include. Eventually, publishers came to embrace juvenile publishing as a core activity, and pioneering collectors of children’s book art, manuscripts, correspondence, and ephemera appeared—the University of Minnesota’s Dr. Irvin Kerlan being a superb example. Without the foresight and persistence of these collectors, much of this story would have been lost forever.   Regarding children’s literature as both a rich repository of collective memory and a powerful engine of cultural change is more important today than ever.


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Original artwork and materials explore children’s literature and its impact in society and culture over time A favorite childhood book can leave a lasting impression, but as adults we tend to shelve such memories. For fourteen months beginning in June 2013, more than half a million visitors to the New York Public Library viewed an exhibition about the role that children’s Original artwork and materials explore children’s literature and its impact in society and culture over time A favorite childhood book can leave a lasting impression, but as adults we tend to shelve such memories. For fourteen months beginning in June 2013, more than half a million visitors to the New York Public Library viewed an exhibition about the role that children’s books play in world culture and in our lives. After the exhibition closed, attendees clamored for a catalog of The ABC of It as well as for children’s literature historian Leonard S. Marcus’s insightful, wry commentary about the objects on display. Now with this book, a collaboration between the University of Minnesota’s Kerlan Collection of Children’s Literature and Leonard Marcus, the nostalgia and vision of that exhibit can be experienced anywhere.  The story of the origins of children’s literature is a tale with memorable characters and deeds, from Hans Christian Andersen and Lewis Carroll to E. B. White and Madeleine L’Engle, who safeguarded a place for wonder in a world increasingly dominated by mechanistic styles of thought, to artists like Beatrix Potter and Maurice Sendak who devoted their extraordinary talents to revealing to children not only the exhilarating beauty of life but also its bracing intensity. Philosophers like John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau and educators such as Johann Comenius and John Dewey were path-finding interpreters of the phenomenon of childhood, inspiring major strands of bookmaking and storytelling for the young. Librarians devised rigorous standards for evaluating children’s books and effective ways of putting good books into children’s hands, and educators proposed radically different ideas about what those books should include. Eventually, publishers came to embrace juvenile publishing as a core activity, and pioneering collectors of children’s book art, manuscripts, correspondence, and ephemera appeared—the University of Minnesota’s Dr. Irvin Kerlan being a superb example. Without the foresight and persistence of these collectors, much of this story would have been lost forever.   Regarding children’s literature as both a rich repository of collective memory and a powerful engine of cultural change is more important today than ever.

52 review for The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter

  1. 4 out of 5

    Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books)

    This is required reading for an internship this summer, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I had no idea such a treasure trove was here in Minneapolis until I went to a talk at the University of Minnesota Library about "The ABC of It: Why Children's Books Matter," an exhibit about children's book art and illustration. I am studying illustration and I do have a special love for picture books/graphic novels/any books with illustrations. I was excited to check it out. It was there that I discovered the K This is required reading for an internship this summer, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I had no idea such a treasure trove was here in Minneapolis until I went to a talk at the University of Minnesota Library about "The ABC of It: Why Children's Books Matter," an exhibit about children's book art and illustration. I am studying illustration and I do have a special love for picture books/graphic novels/any books with illustrations. I was excited to check it out. It was there that I discovered the Kerlan Collection, which is a repository of children's books, lovingly began by Dr. Irvin Kerlan starting in the 40s. It now contains 100,000s of children's books, and the present incarnation receives all of its works from donations by the artists. This book was published to celebrate the Kerlan and at large, the amazing world of children's book illustration. For a relatively short volume, it accomplishes a lot. It has images of pivotal children's books and their art, but clearly that's just scratching the surface, which the author, Leonard S. Marcus clearly states. One of the best things that I've ever encountered in my life was a book. Going to the library never fails to excite me. I remember many of the books that are mentioned in this volume, and many others I made notes to read. As a maker and an artist, I loved the innovation and work that goes into creating the art and the books for kids, but also as a consumer I love exploring the books and learning about the processes and factors behind their creation. I appreciated the historical look at children's book illustration and also how this book is intentional about looking at the multicultural efforts made in developing and creating space for diversity of experiences and ethnicities. It's so important that children are given the space and tools to develop their minds and their sense and to learn the vast possibilities of the world, and how to process the stimuli and integrate it into their knowledge base. I like that it incorporates the awareness of the strong artistic endeavor that goes into making children's book illustration and into a cohesive final product that engages the sensory organs of children, including the eyes, ears and hands. If you're in Minneapolis when we're not on lockdown because of COVID-19, stop by and visit, it's open to everyone.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Earl

    For lovers of children's literature and those who were sad to miss The ABC of It exhibition in The New York Public Library a few years ago, this book is the next best thing. Readers will love looking at the images- including rare manuscript pages- as they learn the history of children's literature.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nan

    This volume is based on the 2019 children's literature exhibit at the Elmer Andersen Library at the University of Minnesota-- which in turn was based on a larger and even better exhibit at the New York Public Library a few years ago. Most of the text seems to be taken directly from the exhibit notes with little attempt to tie it together in a cohesive manner. While there are many interesting illustrations and facts about the history of the genre, this book never really attempts to address the to This volume is based on the 2019 children's literature exhibit at the Elmer Andersen Library at the University of Minnesota-- which in turn was based on a larger and even better exhibit at the New York Public Library a few years ago. Most of the text seems to be taken directly from the exhibit notes with little attempt to tie it together in a cohesive manner. While there are many interesting illustrations and facts about the history of the genre, this book never really attempts to address the topic posed in its title: Why Children's Books Matter. Other books have done a far better job with that. Actual rating: 2.5

  4. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    This is one beautiful informative book, a pleasure to read and enjoy!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Diane Madlon-Kay

    4 stars. Saw the exhibit at the U of MN and heard the author speak.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

  7. 5 out of 5

    Erica

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Volker

  9. 4 out of 5

    Emmie

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alexa

  11. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kara Forde

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ollie Reeder

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kristen Northrup

  15. 5 out of 5

    Cara Byrne

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mrs. Scott

  17. 4 out of 5

    Anastasia

  18. 4 out of 5

    Joann

  19. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Petelin

  20. 4 out of 5

    Marily

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jenn

  22. 5 out of 5

    Randy

  23. 5 out of 5

    Amy

  24. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Noe

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Kotkin

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jim

  27. 5 out of 5

    Janet

  28. 5 out of 5

    Katie

  29. 5 out of 5

    Megan

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

  31. 5 out of 5

    Greta Fischer

  32. 5 out of 5

    Ally Goodwin

  33. 4 out of 5

    Jenna Friebel

  34. 5 out of 5

    Abigail

  35. 4 out of 5

    The Beginning of Your Life Book Club

  36. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

  37. 5 out of 5

    Kaitlin

  38. 5 out of 5

    sarah diehl

  39. 5 out of 5

    Amber

  40. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Brown

  41. 5 out of 5

    Eliza

  42. 5 out of 5

    Franny

  43. 4 out of 5

    Debra

  44. 4 out of 5

    Ronalee

  45. 4 out of 5

    Sam

  46. 5 out of 5

    Ann-Marie

  47. 5 out of 5

    Charyse

  48. 4 out of 5

    Jodi

  49. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Tevebaugh

  50. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

  51. 4 out of 5

    Tara

  52. 4 out of 5

    AMY REASONER

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