You have 10 seconds to think of as many children’s books as you can, ready? GO! 1,2,3…10. In these few seconds you might have thought of stories like “Where the Wild Things Are,” “The Adventures of Winnie and Pooh,” or “Goodnight Moon.” These are all classic tales that were read to us when we were kids and unfortunately, are left to collect dust on our shelves once we become adults: but not anymore.
For the past few months, the New York Public Library has had an exhibition titled: “The ABC’s of It: Why Children’s Books Matter” at its location near Grand Central. This display emphasized the value of children’s books and proved that even adults can learn something from them.
According to the New York Public Library, children’s literature written today has roots in many things including “world folklore, enlightenment philosophy, nationalist fervor, and the political narrative traditions of Asian and Western art.”
Throughout the exhibit, the history of children’s books is traced back through time resting on key novels or stories that we know as adults. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” is displayed because strangely enough, Hawthorne was a ghost-writer of many children’s books. The journey also stops at the tale of “Goodnight Moon” because it was one of the first books to delve into children’s psychology and a progressive, hands-on teaching style.
In the exhibit, an older man was intently reading the history of The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf with a smile on his face. Many people may know this story because it was featured in the movie “The Blind Side”.
“The history is fascinating,” he said, “who would have thought that behind such an imaginative story was a complex background of information.”
The section of the show that seemed to attract the most amount of people was where all of the
banned children’s books were stacked. In the stack there were some obvious ones like Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” but there were others that no one expected to see. Stories such as “Little House on the Prairie” by Laura Ingalls Wilder and “Because of Winn Dixie” by Kate DiCamillo were listed and caught onlookers by surprise.
Not only was this exhibit educational, but it brought the viewer back to when they were young
and reading these books. The original stuffed toys of Winnie, Piglet, and Eeyore were displayed as well as a 3D representation of “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
The “ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter” exhibit just finished its run at the NYPL and is being replaced with other fascinating exhibits. One is called “Over Here: WWI and the Fight for the American Mind” features how public relations and propaganda were used to control the public during WWI. It is showing until February 15th.
Another exhibit at the library until January 3 is “Going Home, Coming Home: Remembering” which honors seven African and African American legends who have greatly influenced our world. Nelson Mandela and Maya Angelou are two of the honorees. For more information about any of the exhibits showing, go to NYPL.org.