Saturday, January 20, 2018

Which Children’s Books Rank As The All-Time Best?

Last year I purchased a copy of The Collector’s Book of Children’s Books by Eric Quayle, a 1971 edition from Strand Book Store in New York City.  It’s a wonderful history of children’s books.  Coming to life, through its over-sized pages were Aesop’s Fables, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Huckleberry Finn, The Jungle Book, and Voyages of Dr. Dolittle Which childhood memory rushes back to you just at the mention of such illuminary books?

Growing up with books as the centerpiece of fantasy and escape may be a thing of the past for most.  Today’s child has the Internet, television, movies, theater and a downloadable catalog of entertainment and information that’s mind-boggling.  As we look back at some of the classics for kids, we harken back to a lost era when these books brought an ephemeral, elusive pleasure to children.

Here are some insightful excerpts from the book:
1. "Picture-books provide one of the most fruitful ways in which a child can increase his knowledge of the world and extend his vocabulary to include a diverse and exotic mixture of places and things to which he would otherwise remain a stranger."

2. "Long after the novels and romances of adult life have faded and been forgotten, the simple stories and tales we read in childhood live on in our hearts.  Who ever forgets The Story of the Three Bears, the tale of Jack the Giant Killer, or the plots of Rumplestiltzkin, Cinderella, or The Wizard of Oz?  The nursery rhymes and fairy-tales we first heard in the tucked-up-in-bed security of early youth continue to exert a fascination throughout life, the words and phrases etching themselves in the memory for instant recall at any time or place.  They colour our literary consciousness, and are repeated as fables to the eager young listeners who re-create the image of ourselves so many years ago.  Just to hear again the magic words Once upon a time… with all the breath-taking anticipation they inspire, is to crowd the mind with the lost delights of childhood and conjure up a picture of never-never land of make-believe and fantasy.  Once, a long time ago, all of us lived there and believed it to be true.  This is the story of the little books that made us believe; and probably brought us more happiness and peace of mind than anything we have ever read since."

3. "Book publishing began to develop in a way we recognize today with the appearance of sophisticated and worldly-wise fiction for adults and books of amusement and entertainment for children.  Both these phenomena occurred in the 1740s, the former with the appearance of the first ‘true’ novel in English, Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded, 4 vols. 1741-2, by Samuel Richardson (1689-1761), a book discussed in the companion volume to this present work; and the latter with the publication by John Newbery of his first book for children in 1744.  Brief mention must be made of Thomas Boreman, a publisher of children’s books, who sold them from his shop at the ‘Boot and Crown’, and from a temporary stall erected with those of other traders within the Guildhall, London.  A Description of a Great Variety of Animals, and Vegetablesespecially for the Entertainment of Youth, 1736, and The Gigantick History of the two famous Giants…in Guildhall, 2 vols. 1740 shows that he was publishing books for children before Newbery came into the field."

4. "Children have never ceased to enjoy reading fairy tales since the first collection of them appeared in print early in the 17th century.  They were the first literature for children to escape from the stifling toils of didacticism and were attacked and condemned by the puritanical writes for precisely this reason.  The battle between the strait-laced juvenile tract and the fairy stories that children delighted to read extended until well into the 1830s.  By the age of Victoria, they had been grudgingly accepted by the parents, guardians and governesses of even the most strictly regulated children, and well-thumbed collections of the best known tales were to be found on nursery shelves everywhere."

5. "Two great landmarks in the annals of children’s books are more fully discussed elsewhere in this work:  but it can be said that the appearance of Alice in Wonderland, 1865, marked a decisive victory over the now scattered exponents of moral earnestness and that the battle was finally won with the publication of Stevenson’s Treasure Island in 1883.  Children could identify themselves with the Jim Hawkins of the apple-barrel perhaps more easily than Alice in her dream-world of fantasy and make-believe, but both were rational human beings who became as easily excited, bored, irritated and bad-tempered as the boy or girl who turned the pages of their books."

Here are the best chldren's books identified by Quayle:
A.B.C. for Children
Aesop’s Fables
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Adventures of Baron Munchausen
Andresen’s Fairy Tales
Basket of Flowers
Black Beauty
Books for the Bairns
Boy’s Country Book
Boy’s Own Annual
Butterfly’s Ball
Children of the New Forest
Child’s Garden of Verses
Christie’s Old Organ
Christopher Robin’s books
Coral Island
Daisy Chain
Elementarwerke fur die Jugend und ihre Freunde
Emil and the Detectives
Eric or Little by Little
Fabulous Histories
Fairy Books, by Andrew Lang
Girl of the Limberlost
Girl’s Own Annual
Golliwogg books
Goody Two-Shoes
Grimm’s Fairy Tales
Gulliver’s Travels
Helen’s Babies
Hisoires ou Contes de Temps Passe
Historical Account of the most celebrated Voyages
History of Babar
History of Little Henry
History of Sandford and Merton
History of the Earth, and Animated Nature
History of the Fairchild Family
Holiday House
Home Treasury of Books
Huckleberry Finn
Hymns for Infant Minds
In Fairyland
Island Home
Jack Harkaway Stories
Jessica’s First Prayer
Jungle Books
Just William
King of the Golden River
Kunst und Lehrbuchlein
L’ami des Enfans
Leather-Stocking Tales
Life and Perambulations of a Mouse
Little Lord Fauntleroy
Little Master’s Miscellany
Little Pretty Pocket-Book
Little Women
Looking-Glass for children
Martin Rattler
Masterman Ready
Ministering Children
Minor Morals for Young People
Mopsa the Fairy
Only Toys
Orbis Sensualium Pictus
Original Poems, for Infant Minds
Out on the Pampas
Parent’s Assistant
Peacock “at home”
Peter and Wendy
Peter Parley annuals
Peter the Whaler
Pilgrim’s Progress
Peter Rabbit books
Railway children
Rambles of a Rat
Renowned history of Giles Gingerbread
Rollo stories
Sandford and Merton
Secret Garden
Stalky & Co.
Story of Little Black Sambo
Story of Little Henry
Story of the Treasure Seekers
Swallows and Amazons
Swiss Family Robinson
Tarzan of the Apes
Through the Looking Glass
Tom Brown’s School Days
Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book
Tom Sawyer
Treasure Island
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Under the Window
Voyage s of Dr. Dolittle
Water Babies
Wide, Wide World
Wind in the Willows
Wizard of Oz

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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2018. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. 

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