The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter
Celebrating children’s literature at Andersen Library
By: Esther Chan
A reimagination of the original exhibit from the New York Public Library, the Children’s Literature Research Collections at Andersen Library transports visitors through childhood nostalgia. Whether it’s original drafts and illustrations from “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” or a life-size rendition of the classic “Goodnight Moon” scene, it’s a reminiscent homage to the childhood stories that have shaped generations.
The exhibit expands to all three floors of the library and features numerous pieces from the archival collection. You can see original illustrations from iconic and classic books such as “The Poky Little Puppy”or rarely displayed artwork from Wanda Gag. A personal favorite is “Little Fur Family,” a pocket-sized book by Margaret Wise Brown who, embracing the importance of children’s sensory stimulations, wrapped the book in literal rabbit fur. There are also lesser-known items such as “Tsunami,”a children’s book in scroll format from India, or a pamphlet from 1871 used to teach Japanese children the Western alphabet.
For me, it was when looking at an original draft of the iconic “Amelia Bedelia” books, complete with sketches, typewriter scraps, and editor notes, that I got a glimpse of the whole purpose behind the exhibit. Maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for nostalgia and history, or maybe it was something about the soft music dancing in the background. But I was transported back to my 6-year-old self guffawing with my sisters over these books, convinced that they were the epitome of humor. There was something about this exhibit that made me realize I take for granted how fortunate I was to grow up in a time when literature was celebrated. At some point, there was an author—an artist who slaved over wording and sentences, formats and bindings, textures, colors, sketches—all for the sake of creating moments of joy and stimulation for children.