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The 20th Century Children's Book Treasury: Picture Books and Stories to Read Aloud    selected by Janet Schulman order for
20th Century Children's Book Treasury
by Janet Schulman
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2005 (1998)

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* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Janet Schulman, author and editor of children's books, has selected stories representative of sixty writers and artists for inclusion in the 2005 edition of The 20th Century Children's Book Treasury. The anthology of forty-four classics includes stories about learning the alphabet, colors and numbers, discovering animals, growing up amidst siblings, as well as magical fantasies and fables. The Treasury includes Biographical Notes on writers, a Guide to Reading Ages (each story is color coded as red, blue, or green to indicate appropriate age groups), and is good value for its cost.

The selection begins with Madeline, who lives in Paris with twelve girls of whom she is the smallest. Writer and illustrator Ludwig Bemelmans' 1939 tale tells of Madeline's visit to the hospital to have her appendix taken out. Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault wrote Chicka Chicka Boom Boom in 1989 with illustrations by Lois Ehlert. The writers used verse form to teach the alphabet, beginning with 'A told B, / and B told C, / 'I'll meet you at the top of the coconut tree'' through to 'Last to come / X Y Z. / And the sun goes down / on the coconut tree ... A is out of bed, / and this is what he said, / 'Dare double dare, / you can't catch me. / I'll beat you to the top / of the coconut tree. / Chicka Chika / BOOM! BOOM!''

Ezra Jack Keats' The Snowy Day stars a boy named Peter, who awakes one morning to find the ground covered with a heavy snowfall. He ventures outside, making angels in the snow. Before Peter goes in, he puts a snowball in his pocket, but feels very sad when he later finds it has melted. From writer and illustrator Robert McCloskey comes a story he wrote in 1941, Make Way For Ducklings. It's a wondrous tale about Mr. and Mrs. Mallard, who fly until they find a safe place to rest in a Boston pond. They decide to make their nest in the Public Garden. Eight ducklings hatch - Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack. When Mrs. Mallard takes her ducklings on a trip into the city, she's very proud that everyone stops to admire them. The Mallard family settle on a little island in the pond.

Publication years of stories vary from the late 1800s (The Story of Little Babaji) to 1933 (The Story of Babar), and 1994 (Good Night, Gorilla). In her Note to Parents, Schulman writes, 'This was the century during which children's books, and most especially the picture book, came into fruition. Starting in 1919, in response to the rapid expansion of the free public library system, American publishers began establishing children's book departments. At the same time, new printing technologies made it possible to manufacture beautiful books at affordable prices. And then after World War II came the baby boom, and with it a vastly expanded audience for children's books. Without those developments, it seems unlikely that we would have such a rich array of children's books today.'

The 20th Century Children's Book Treasury is a versatile addition to home libraries, a treasured introduction and reference source to children's literature written over many years. It's a book for snuggling moments with the family, an aide to babysitters and grandparents, and a precious gift for new parents, or parents-to-be. Happy reading!

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