By Margueritte Peterson
February 1st marks the beginning of Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week! Now, we’ve written several blogs on some of our favorite children’s book authors, but what we haven’t done in a while is take a look at some of our most popular antiquarian children’s literature items! We thought we’d take a little tour through some of our inventory and see how we can celebrate this week of Children’s literature with some… antiquarian flair!
The beginning of what we know today as Children’s Literature is commonly attributed to authors around the mid to late 19th century, with authors like Charles Dodgson, Edward Lear and Rudyard Kipling paving the way for fantastical and nonsensical Children’s Literature – more often than not written for the pure enjoyment of children. However, before true “Children’s Literature” existed, the writing for the young was more didactic in nature, always teaching a skill or a moral lesson (sometimes with even an implied punishment for failure to learn the lesson provided). This 1806 “Young Child’s A-B-C or First Book” is a Children’s chapbook teaching the A-B-C’s in Hornbook style – with images of items beginning with the letter in question. It is a first printing of this chapbook, rare in the trade and in fairly nice condition for its age! See it here.
Almanacks began to appear in the 1800s as well, with one popular type being Kate Greenaway’s yearly ones for Children. Though these continued to have a sense of didacticism in them, as they were a fount of knowledge and information, fun colored hand-drawn images of small children in fashionable clothing made these little books a bit different from their earlier counterparts. Our 1886 Almanack (published in 1885) is a clear representation of the Kate Greenaway publications, with a scarcely seen 19th century dust jacket still intact. See it here.
In the 1900s we begin to see more and more child-oriented literature, such as naturalist and animal illustrator Cecil Aldin’s “The White Puppy Book”. This book in particular contains 25 illustrations (a clear distinction of the rise of literature for the children’s enjoyment), of which 12 are full-page illustrations. This illustrator used his skills to bring enjoyment to children with this book, with humorous images of a white puppy. See it here.
Skipping ahead to 1955, we see the popular Children’s Series books at peak demand. Edward Stratemeyer had formed his syndicate in 1905, and series books like Tom Swift, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys had been favored by the young for decades. One of our favorite series that doesn’t (in our humble opinion) receive enough acclaim for its creativity and individuality are the Freddy books! Our 1st edition of “Freddy and the Baseball Team from Mars” is one – the Freddy series including stories of a fun-loving pig that tries desperately to go on many different adventures. They are illustrated intertextually with brightly colored and humorous Dust Jackets. See this item here.
Almost every adult in the United States knows the Dick and Jane series to help teach children to read with humorous lines and repetition. The series was iconically illustrated by artists such as Eleanor Campbell and Robert Childress, and though first appearing in the 1930s remained popular ever since, even being reissued in 2003. The iconic phrase “See Spot Run!” comes from this series! A set of 16 scarce reading cards from 1962 can be found here.
So how else can you celebrate Children’s Author and Illustrator week without splurging on a neat antiquarian item? Well, whether you are a parent, a teacher, a bookseller or a librarian, here are a few ideas!
TALK with a librarian or a local children’s bookseller. They can recommend the perfect books for yours and your children’s age or interests!
READ with friends and family. Reading together is fun and helps create enthusiastic, strong readers. It’s never too late to become a reader!
VISIT independent bookstores and children’s specialty bookstores and learn about a new (or long gone, in our case) children’s author today!
And visit the Children’s Author’s Network for more ideas on spreading the Kid Lit love this year!