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'100 Best Books for Children'     Send a link to a friend

[SEPT. 15, 2004]  "100 Best Books for Children," by Anita Silvey, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004, adult

100 Best Books for Children - Literature & Fiction Books  BookReview by
Louella Moreland

Once in a while a book comes along that becomes a great guide for parents, teachers and others who read with children. Such it is with Anita Silvey's "100 Best Books for Children." In this relatively slim volume, the editor of "Children's Books and Their Creators" gives us an encapsulated look at some of the best-known and loved children's literature of this century. These books have indeed weathered the test of time.

The book is divided into sections from board books (birth to age 2), progressing to picture books, following with the beginning readers, and continuing on through older readers (ages 11 to 12). Each section gives the best-loved books of each age group. However, this is just the beginning of its usefulness!

Along with each title is given the author, illustrator, publishing company, copyright date, and number of pages. This provides an adult the information needed to give to a librarian or bookstore in order to locate a particular book covered in the listings. A short plot synopsis accompanies each entry.

Background information about the stories is also included. For example, why did Margaret Wise Brown's "Goodnight Moon" not become a best seller until 20 years after its release at $1 a copy? How did a bicycle accident play a role in the development of "Madeline" by Ludwig Bemelmans? What controversy did Munro Leaf's "Ferdinand" stir up in 1938 that caused it to outsell "Gone With the Wind"? Where did Leo Lionni come up with the idea of "Swimmy"? Who was the inspiration for the Caldecott Honor book "A Chair for My Mother"?

These are just a sample of the interesting background information behind the stories that we have come to love. We become privy to the reason "Make Way for Ducklings" was printed in the brown ink we have come to automatically associate with that story. We learn about the pairing of many writer-illustrator teams. Most importantly, we are given validation to our opinions about some of our favorite children's books.


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Ms. Silvey writes in her introduction: "Nothing in a child's intellectual development offers more pleasure or more excitement than a good book. Nothing lasts longer in memory than childhood reading experiences. And nothing ensures the success of a child more in society than being read to from infancy through young adulthood. Reading books to and with children is the single most important thing a parent, grandparent or significant adult can do."

How did Silvey choose only 100 from the thousands of wonderful books available? She simply pretended to be going on a sea voyage with children of various ages, and they would be stranded on a desert island. Which books would she choose to take along with her? But for those adults who feel their favorites were left out of the top 100, a list entitled "Beyond the 100 Best" is included, following the same age categories as the book. Also included are classics, informational titles, multicultural books, myths, legends and folklore, poetry, titles to help locate other books, a bibliography, reading journal, and index.

Indeed, this "little" book might become one of your favorite books to pick up at the library from time to time. As Ms. Silvey puts it best: "The canon of children's books remains the best gift we could ever give our children. If we fail to present these books to children, they reach adulthood without a basic literary heritage." I invite you to peruse the pages of "100 Best Books for Children" and then check out some of the recommended books to read to a child.

[Louella Moreland, youth services librarian,
Lincoln Public Library, 725 Pekin St.]

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