It's one of my favorite books. I can't believe I left it out of my post about books to give to babies, because I give it as a baby gift all the time.
It's a compilation of picture books, which doesn't seem very extraordinary. After all, there are a lot of compilations. But what makes this one so special is the books that are included. Just about every classic picture book is in this book, including: Good Night Moon, Where the Wild Things Are, Curious George, Madeline, The Story of Ferdinand, The Snowy Day and Make Way for Ducklings. And the more recent books are in there too, like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and The Stinky Cheese Man. Plus, the book includes early readers like Frog and Toad and Amelia Bedelia, and books for babies such as Freight Train, and Ten, Nine, Eight. All together, there are forty four books in one (relatively small) volume. It's just terrific.
Why does this particular collection contain so many crown jewels of children's literature? Well, I have a theory about that... and it has to do with the editor. The name of the woman who put this book together is Janet Schulman. She's a giant in the children's publishing industry and was the Editor in Chief at Random House for a number of years. Plus, she was Dr. Seuss' last editor. I think that she had the muscle and the connections to pull a book like this together and to get the rights to all the classics in a way that no one else could. Or at least, that's my theory.
Now, if you check out the reviews on Amazon's page for this book, you'll find that lots of people love it, while others don't care for it. The main complaint is that the book compresses too much. And that's true. None of the text is abridged, but pictures are jammed in next to each other to conserve space. For example, the entire text and the illustrations of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day appear on two pages. That's it. Just two pages.
So, purists may not enjoy it. But, I think the book is great for other reasons and that's why I give it as a gift. It's a terrific resource to help parents remember classics from when they were little.... and to introduce them and their kids to new books they may not know. If there's a book you or your kids fall in love with, you can always purchase the original, un-edited version.
Also, it's wonderful to travel with. Think about it... you can pack forty four individual picture books, or just one book that contains them all. One more advantage to this book: it contains an age index. There are recommendations for all age levels, which makes it easy to select an appropriate story. And, there are terrific bios of all the authors and illustrators in the back of the book.
For more about the book and to see samples, head over to Random House's website about The 20th Century Children's Book Treasury.
And, if you're curious, here's a list of all the picture books (listed alphabetical by title) contained in this fantastic compilation:
- Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good,Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Ray Cruz
- Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish, illustrated by Fritz Siebel
- Bedtime for Frances by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Garth Williams
- The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree by Stan and Jan Berenstain
- A Boy, a Dog and a Frog by Mercer Mayer
- "The Cat Club" by Esther Averill
- A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams
- Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr., and John Archambault, illustrated by Lois Ehlert
- Curious George by H. A. Rey
- D.W. the Picky Eater by Marc Brown
- "The Elves in the Shelves" by Joan Aiken, illustrated by Jan Pienkowski
- First Tomato by Rosemary Wells
- Freight Train by Donald Crews
- Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
- Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd
- Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, illustrated by Anita Jeram
- Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion, illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham
- I Am a Bunny by Ole Risom, illustrated by Richard Scarry
- I Hear, I See, and I Touch by Helen Oxenbury
- "In Which Pooh Goes Visiting..." by A. A. Milne, illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard
- "The Letter" by Arnold Lobel
- Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
- Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
- Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
- A Million Fish...More or Less by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Dena Schutzer
- Millions of Cats by Wanda Gág
- Miss Nelson Is Missing! by Harry Allard, illustrated by James Marshall
- Owen by Kevin Henkes
- Petunia by Roger Duvoisin
- "The Sneetches" by Dr. Seuss
- The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson
- The Story of Little Babaji by Helen Bannerman, illustrated by Fred Marcellino
- The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
- Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
- Stevie by John Steptoe
- "The Stinky Cheese Man" by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith
- The Story of Babar by Jean de Brunhoff
- Swimmy by Leo Lionni
- Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
- Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang
- Titch by Pat Hutchins
- The Tub People by Pam Conrad, illustrated by Richard Egielski
- Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
- Whose Mouse Are You? by Robert Kraus, illustrated by Jose Aruego