A Grateful Thanks to NYPL

New York Public Library Exhibit: June 2013  


Goodnight Moon original art by Clement Hurd

Our first books stir and shape us as few books ever can again. Goodnight MoonPippi LongstockingA Wrinkle in Time! For more than three centuries, books made with the young in mind have served as indispensable gateways to literature, art, and knowledge of the world. Viewed historically and across cultures, the sheer number and variety of such volumes is apt to amaze. If, however, as adults we find that our own childhood favorites remain as thrilling, funny, or heart-stoppingly beautiful as ever, we should not be surprised. As W. H. Auden wisely observed, "There are no good books which are only for children."

Today's brightly packaged, increasingly globalized books for young people have complex roots in world folklore, Enlightenment philosophy, nationalist fervor, and the pictorial narrative traditions of Asian and Western art, among other sources. Collectively, they form a vivid record of literate society's changing hopes and dreams, and of the never-ending challenge of communicating with young readers in the most compelling possible way.

The ABC of It draws from collections across the library to present literature for children and teens against a sweeping backdrop of history, the arts, popular culture, and technological change. The books and related objects on view reveal hidden contexts and connections, inviting second looks and fresh discoveries. They suggest that books for young people have stories to tell us about ourselves, and are rarely as simple as they seem.

A Grateful Thanks to NYPL